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When futuristic innovations meet empathy and Human Understanding

Overcoming obstacles and finding solutions for the greater good of society is part of Paul Coyne’s DNA.

Author, inventor, and entrepreneur Coyne—who is also Senior Vice President and Chief Nurse Executive at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York—shares his perspective on nursing collaboration and technology innovation, along with his remarkable patient story, in the latest episode of NRC Health’s Patient No Longer podcast, “Will Technology Save or Destroy Healthcare? A Conversation with Paul Coyne”

“At HSS, I talk about belonging and excellence and culture,” Coyne says. “And I think a lot of organizations just have excellence but no belonging. But you can always have more excellence and more belonging! I think belonging means a desire to want the best for someone else and have them want the best for you. When they go together, it’s a multiplier of belonging and excellence.”

Host Ryan Donohue, Solutions Expert and Strategic Advisor with NRC Health, talks with Coyne on the podcast about how Coyne’s own patient story impacted his interest in pursuing nursing and healthcare leadership, and the impact he sees technology having on shoring up healthcare staff and giving them more time to relate to patients.

Coyne was born with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the ventricle walls of the heart are too thick. As a result of that illness, at the age of 10 he was unable to play competitive sports; at 15 he had a pacemaker implanted in his chest; and at 22, he suffered a left-thalamic stroke and had to relearn how to talk and walk and regain all his memories.

“When my brain was back to a place of being better, you still doubt yourself, and you still feel incapable, and you still feel like a patient, and you still feel all of these things of vulnerability, and you wonder if you’re back,” he says. “I just didn’t want to feel that way anymore, and I wanted to help other people, and I wanted to give purpose to what I went through and prove to myself that I was still capable and that I had something to contribute to the world and that I could have a life that mattered.”

For all those reasons, Coyne went back to school to pursue new educational opportunities and became a nurse. “I got five degrees in a three-and-a-half-year period, between 26 and 30,” he says. “I got a bachelor’s, a master’s, and a doctorate in nursing, and an MBA and master’s in finance. And then I came out—still with heart disease but feeling a little more capable and wanting to start my career in healthcare. Every day is a chance to learn, grow, and try to help others learn and grow.”

Coyne believes that the state of the patient experience has been profoundly affected by COVID, because when you want to do good, but are unable to singularly do well for patients—in this case, save everyone—then you’re then left feeling like you weren’t excellent enough: a feeling the pandemic has forced many healthcare workers to face.

“To remain excellent, you have to dial back the part of you that felt connected to that patient, to preserve your own self and your own psychology,” he says. “That’s a trauma that’s happened across the front line of anyone that dealt with patients at the height of the pandemic that I think we’re not talking enough about.”

That’s an especially difficult feeling, Coyne believes, because people get into healthcare exactly because a part of them wants to belong and provide excellence.

“They want to take care of patients,” he says. “There’s a part of them that wants to truly help another person. And the world is changing. Some of it’s great. Technology innovations…there are great things that make our lives more efficient. But sometimes those same things draw unexpected barriers between us—the phone is a perfect example, or the way we communicate with each other, or charting. These things are wonderful and have a purpose, but they’re drawing people away from remembering consistently why they went into the profession they went into. And so, I think it’s important for certain technologies to be implemented that alleviate that which blocks human interaction and rejoins that which does.

“We’ve taken great people, taken the human interaction away, and given them burdensome tasks that aren’t with the humans,” he continues, “and then wonder why they don’t like that. This isn’t why they wanted to be a doctor, nurse, or any of these clinical roles. And then taking most of the human part away from it would lead to burnout, because then it becomes work. And then you’re seeking to have balance in life. But really, we need to figure out how to have what you seek to be in the workplace.”

Coyne is passionate about clinician-led, nurse-led, and physician-led innovation, he says, because those are the people who know best. He believes these groups of people are what makes healthcare special and should naturally be the ones who lead the innovation. He believes that so deeply, in fact, that he co-founded a company called Inspiren, which created AUGI, a singular AI-driven customizable platform to help optimize rounding and caring efficiency, improve patient safety, and increase staff engagement. To date, the platform has been associated with a 75% decrease in patient falls, a 45% increase in hourly rounding, a 38% increase in bedside reporting, a 33% faster nurse call response time, and 100% staff approval—stats which were published in the Journal of Informatics Nursing.

“The augmented technology is designed to augment staff and aid them, versus artificial replacement, which is an important distinction in healthcare,” Coyne says. “Technology designed to restore that human connection should be at the forefront of every decision in healthcare, which is a more thoughtful way. It’s a harder way, but it is the way, and we have to ensure that every piece of technology brings all of those people together and doesn’t divide them.”

Learn more about AI’s role in healthcare, how technology can aid healthcare staff to spend more quality time with patients, and what Coyne thinks every person should know as they start on their healthcare journey in this episode of Patient No Longer.