Nanobyte insights: Children's Hospital Los Angeles' first chief innovation officer shares his thoughts on healthcare innovation

Omkar Kulkarni, who became Children's Hospital Los Angeles' first chief innovation officer in 2018, is no stranger to the healthcare technology field.

In his role at CHLA, Mr. Kulkarni has launched a virtual care program, played a key role in the creation and implementation of digital health tools, and led efforts to bring innovation into pediatric care and medical research.

Before joining CHLA as its inaugural chief innovation officer, Mr. Kulkarni served as executive director of Cedars-Sinai Accelerator, the Los Angeles-based health system's innovation collaborative. In that position, he examined more than 3,000 healthcare startups, acting as both a mentor and liaison. He worked in performance improvement at Cedars-Sinai for about eight years before taking that role.

Mr. Kulkarni, who holds a master's degree in public health and healthcare management from New York City-based Columbia University, also recently founded an international pediatric digital health program named KidsX.Health. It aims to connect leading children's hospitals with innovative digital health companies to create software that improves pediatric care.

Here, Mr. Kulkarni shares his rapid-fire thoughts on health IT innovation, from the capabilities of artificial intelligence to his favorite voice assistant.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: Mac or PC? 

Omkar Kulkarni: I love my MacBook.

Q: iPhone or Android?

OK: iPhone.

Q: What has been your go-to tech device during the pandemic? 

OK: Video chat software has been most helpful in creating important connections in both my professional and personal life.

Q: What innovation or technology has made the biggest difference in your organization's COVID-19 response?

OK: The use of videoconferencing has been important for enabling remote work, especially the use of telemedicine to connect our providers with their patients and families. Through telemedicine, we have been able to care for 50,000 patients since the pandemic began.

Q: What's your go-to voice assistant: Amazon Alexa, Google Home or Apple Siri? 

OK: I use both Alexa and Google Home, but for different things.

Q: Which retail or tech giant will be the biggest disrupter to healthcare? 

OK: There won't be just one. The healthcare industry is rapidly innovating, and nontraditional entrants from retail and tech are contributing to the accelerated and often disruptive innovation. I believe COVID-19 has been and will be a further catalyst to an already rapidly changing industry.

Q: What patient engagement tech do you predict will be most used by patients in the next 3-5 years? 

OK: Messaging. Whether with a live individual or with an AI bot, messaging has the potential to transform the way we engage with our patients in between their visits.

Q: If you could only have three apps on your phone, which would you choose? 

OK: Music, Maps and Messages.

Q: What excites you most about the future of artificial intelligence in healthcare? 

OK: Reducing and/or eliminating errors while reducing cost at the same time. The consistency that comes with AI is difficult to replicate, even in the most high-performing organization. Healthcare can and will benefit from purpose-built AI tools.

Q: What's one professional skill you're currently focused on? 

OK: Being a more empathic listener.

Q: What is one health tool you think should stay analog? 

OK: Tongue depressor. 

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