Mount Sinai’s chief nursing informatics officer talks leveraging tech to improve patient safety

The health system has developed 17 artificial intelligence products to improve care quality and make work easier for clinicians.
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Robbie Freeman

· 4 min read

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This week’s Making Rounds spotlights Robbie Freeman, VP of digital experience and chief nursing informatics officer at Mount Sinai Health System in New York. Freeman will be a panelist on May 15 at Healthcare Brew’s event Bench to Bedside & Beyond: The Future of Health Tech, which is taking place in New York City (and virtually). During the event, Freeman will discuss how the health system is leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to improve patient care.

Freeman gave Healthcare Brew a preview of the work he’s doing with Mount Sinai and discussed some common misconceptions surrounding AI.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What does your job as VP and chief nursing informatics officer entail?

My role is to help us advance our technology capabilities around the digital experience, AI, and informatics. I lead our work around digital experience, around nursing informatics, and more recently, around our enterprise data and analytics. Those are the three teams I lead, and the common theme is around applying technology to improve experience, patient care quality, and safety.

Our nurse informaticists serve as translators between the clinical team members—our frontline nurses, doctors, and other members of the care team—and the technology teams. A lot of the work is focused on how we can improve quality, safety, and the patient experience.

What kind of work are you doing around AI right now?

A lot around keeping our patients safe. We have a portfolio of around 17 products that we built internally and scaled across the health system. Over the past year, the big focus has been on generative AI, so we have a number of use cases that are leveraging that technology. One is an internal product we built to help our team that does chart reviews.

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On the patient experience side, we have a conversational AI agent so patients can text us, go on the web, go on an app, or call us. And there’s a digital agent that can help them get questions answered, do appointment scheduling, and refill their medications. We’re also looking at: How can it support our workforce? What are the opportunities for generative AI to make life easier for our doctors, for our nurses, and for people doing administrative work?

What are some misconceptions you hear about how AI is being implemented in healthcare?

One misconception is that AI is running in a very autonomous way. That is not the case. We always keep the human in the loop—the clinician in the loop. These are tools, but it’s not meant to replace clinical decision-making.

Having the right governance in place is important. We have an overarching governance structure to make sure that before the AI tools are used for patient care, we understand how they work, we check for bias, and we look at the performance to make sure it meets our success criteria.

What’s the most fulfilling part of your job?

I’m really passionate about making care safer for our patients and looking at care delivery redesigned. Technology is the most efficient way we can do that. There are examples all the time: We came up with a digital nudge to remind patients about their colon cancer screening, and we’ve seen that by just sending a simple reminder, we can make significant improvements in the screening rates. That translates to less suffering, less death, and early detection. There are countless other examples of that, where we see that digital can be a really efficient way to keep our patients safe, prevent harm and suffering, and create a more seamless experience. 

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.