Nanobyte insights: IKS Health's chief digital transformation officer shares his thoughts on healthcare innovation

As it is for many leaders in the health IT world, the journey into the field was a bit unexpected for Muthu Krishnan, PhD, chief digital transformation officer at Burr Ridge, Ill.-based IKS Health.

Dr. Krishnan was doing technology development work in his native India when Athenahealth hired him to lead their efforts to leverage new technology in the country, marking his entrance into the healthcare-focused segment of the tech world.

One of India's largest health conglomerates, Tata, also tapped Dr. Krishnan to start its digital health company in 2015, of which he led the development. His other notable accomplishments in health IT include holding various leadership positions at Athenahealth and leading the development of a range of specialty care products for healthcare-focused tech company Integra Connect.

Dr. Krishnan said "the challenge of disrupting the status quo of clinical and administrative processes with data-based insights and technology" inspired him to stay in health IT. Here, he shares his rapid-fire thoughts on health IT innovation, from disruption in the industry to the technology he can't live without

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

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

Dr. Muthu Krishnan: Our technology platform enabled us to move all the work we do for our clients to a secure work-from-home setting and bring all our clients to operate at pre-COVID levels within a matter of days, not weeks or months! 

Q: What's the No. 1 tech device you couldn't live without at work?

MK: My work laptop. Our capability to connect from anywhere securely helps me keep my work (and meeting schedule) in sync with my colleagues, partners and clients.

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

MK: I don't use one. 

Q: If you could add any tool to your EHR tomorrow, what would it be?

MK: The ability to extract patient care data fully in a standard form for me to use with another EHR or processing by oneself. The fact that EHRs are so locked down is frustrating. None of the ERPs locked down access like EHRs have done.

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

MK: Walmart in the retail clinic segment and Amazon for online prescription fulfillment.

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

MK: Specialty-focused, FDA-regulated apps will become a tool of choice for clinicians to manage patient population. We see this as an interesting experiment today. This would bring caregivers, patients and physicians together to solve different dimensions of the same problem to improve the clinical outcome. 

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

MK: (1) An app with ability to see and speak with someone, (2) an app to search for people, places and things (3) an app with email and calendar functions.

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

MK: The ability to look at patterns and not-so-apparent dependencies to make appropriate administrative and clinical decisions.

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

MK: I am focused on sharpening my AI, machine learning and natural language processing skills.

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

MK: The ability to see a physician in person — empathy and emotion are not yet the realm of computers!

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