Paul Coyne’s name is followed by a long list of credentials: bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in nursing, as well as master’s degrees in business and finance, and certifications in nursing and adult gerontology.
But what might be more impressive is how Coyne, 34, got it all done, after quitting his job in Wall Street.
First, he earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Columbia University. Then, he dashed through Columbia’s master’s and doctorate programs in nursing, while simultaneously completing online masters’ programs in business administration and finance at Northeastern.
The entire academic feat took him just four years, and it was kickstarted by a key event just weeks before he started a job as a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs.
Coyne was 22 and just out of college when he suffered a stroke caused by hereditary heart disease. As he began his new job, he coped with weakness on the right side of his body, memory loss, and limited ability to speak.
Essentially, Coyne needed to relearn many aspects of life. He read encyclopedias and dictionaries. Over the phone, his parents often reminded him of details, ranging from mundane things such as the address of his office, to how much they loved him.
“I had to relearn how to talk, walk, and remember who I was,” Coyne says. “I never wanted to think about that time in my life or the fact that I had a stroke and wonder whether my brain was back.”
After three years of recovery, Coyne felt the need to prove to himself that he was smart. At the same time, he wanted to do everything in his power to help people who, like him, suffered from chronic health problems. Turning to school and nursing seemed to be the obvious choice.
“I was trying to get my brain back, so I enrolled in a lot of school,” he says. “Either I was going to be really doing some stuff, or I was going to be sick and stay home and watch a lot of TV a lot of the day.”
Now, Coyne is fulfilling that goal as a healthcare executive at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, one of the top hospitals in the U.S. With his experience as a caregiver and a patient, and with fresh eyes on nursing, he believes that what will drive the healthcare industry into the future is a mix of clinical awareness, business knowledge, and fluency in data and technology.
That’s a vision Coyne made into a reality in 2016, when he co-founded Inspiren, a health technology startup that focuses on using artificial intelligence in hospitals.
With Michael Wang, an entrepreneur and former nursing classmate at Columbia, and Vincent Cocito, a close friend who helped him during his recovery years, Coyne invented a device called iN that monitors the physical and digital environments in hospital rooms to help nurses care for their patients.
The device is a small machine with a big shot at transforming the healthcare industry. It’s also the product of understanding the many different needs of hospital patients, says Coyne, who directs nursing informatics and clinical practice in his day job.
“From a database perspective, I knew what needed to be done in terms of output of the device,” he says. “Mike, who worked as a clinical bedside nurse, knew the practical problems that nurses are facing on the floor.”
According to Inspiren’s website, the device is the world’s first cognitive patient care assistant. It combines artificial intelligence and sensors to scan different aspects of what’s going on in a room, such as how often patients are being checked to prevent bed sores, or whether patients might be at risk of falling when they leave their beds. Simply mounted on the wall, iN can also watch out for brightness, temperature, and other parts of the room that are important for making patients comfortable.
The idea is to help nurses, who continue to struggle with staffing shortages, and who often face having to work extended periods of time caring for a high number of patients.
“One of the ways we’re doing that is by lifting the burden of charting,” Coyne says. “Everyone knows this: If you go to the hospital, you go to the doctor, the care has become more about charting than about caring, and everyone feels that on both ends.”
That’s why Coyne envisions a future of connectedness and sensors to assist caregivers by reading thermometers, glucometers, and other medical instruments that can be accessed through the internet and bluetooth.
Coyne says iN represents a step in a direction to refocus the healthcare industry and help nurses provide better quality care. After all, caring for other people is what drove him and other caregivers into a lifetime of care, he says.
“Healing a person requires both physical healing and emotional healing,” Coyne says. “We’re just trying to keep finding ways to spend more time with patients so that we can devote, certainly without sacrificing the great quality care.”