The big trends in pediatric healthcare innovation from Children's National Health System's Dr. Kolaleh Eskandanian

Kolaleh Eskandanian, PhD, is the vice president and chief innovation officer of Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C.

Here, Dr. Eskandanian outlines the big cybersecurity challenges and how she expects her role as the chief innovation officer at Children's National to evolve over the next few years.

Question: What emerging trend or technology in cybersecurity are you most interested in today and why?

Dr. Kolaleh Eskandanian: As Children's National's chief innovation officer and also the principal investigator of the FDA-funded National Capital Consortium for Pediatric Device Innovation, I evaluate hundreds of medical device concepts a year. One of the checkboxes that I watch for carefully is security risk associated with medical devices. In 2015, FDA released a safety communication warning about cybersecurity vulnerabilities with Hospira's Symbiq infusion system. Specifically, FDA warned that the infusion system could potentially be accessed remotely, through a hospital's network, providing opportunity for a malicious attempt to change dosage delivered by the pump.

The Department of Homeland Security released a similar alert. Hospitals in general and Children's Hospitals in particular can be very vulnerable to potential cybersecurity hacks targeted to medical devices. The NICU environment, for example, is highly networked using the internet. Our next $150,000 'Make Your Device Pitch for Kids!' competition, being held on Sept. 22 as part our 7th Annual Symposium on Pediatric Device Innovation in Boston, is focused on NICU devices, and we hope to select top medical device companies with the best NICU device ideas and work with them to ensure NICUs have the safest and most efficient devices for our smallest patients.

Q: How do you think your role will change in the next three years? What are you doing today to prepare?

KE: The most important aspect of my role is to react to market signals sharply and think several steps ahead. In the innovation domain, those who get twisted in the traditional methodology of benchmarking, for example, will clearly stay behind. I am fortunate to work in a culture that embraces disruption, while balancing risks and benefits, carefully. So, I think my role is dynamic and I need to always have an eagle eye vision on how the world is changing in general, and how healthcare, and specifically pediatric healthcare, can leverage the technology advancements in all fields to its advantage.

Q: What is the most dangerous trend in healthcare or health IT today and why?

KE: A fad is the most dangerous phenomenon in any industry, but particularly in healthcare. I think trend is fine, and we have to be sure to differentiate between fad and trend. For instance, in healthcare, we should strive to use data to improve patients' outcome by diagnosing diseases more accurately and early, and to treat diseases with more precision. Use of data also plays a big role in the meaningful engagement of patients. Now, I have been around long enough to see lingos and buzzwords come and go. For example, big data (until not too long ago) and now artificial intelligence, machine learning and digital transformation are tossed around to the extent that some places create positions with these titles. I am a big believer of the architectural principle of 'form follows function.' We can use fad lingos, but we should not lose sight of the intended function.

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