Medical informatics is more about knowledge and wisdom than data and analytical codes

It has been a decade since Professor Wonchul Cha, Director of the Digital Innovation Center at Samsung Medical Center, started a career in medical informatics.

The healthcare veteran decided to pursue this line of work when he saw the technical advancements of IT along with the digital transformation efforts happening in the hospital.

He explains, “New devices and solutions are coming into the world every day while work processes in the hospital are more closely developed with digital devices. The cost of digitalisation is decreasing, and people’s expectations are rising. I find that the situation has ripened which requires the right people to join for the harvest.”

Informatics as an academic field focuses on information, which is like a building block of healthcare, according to Prof Cha.

“It gives you the power to redesign and reconstruct healthcare,” he says.

“However, wisdom is needed to properly connect information. Thus, informatics is more about knowledge and wisdom than data and analytical codes.”

Prof Cha’s biggest motivation in this field is the goal to bridge the wide information gaps between patients and healthcare providers to enhance experience and outcomes.

“Physicians are under continuous strain in their interactions with other doctors due to information gaps while nurses struggle to deliver appropriate information to doctors and patients to improve decision making. For patients, they are often left in the dark without having timely information to make their own decisions,” he explains.

IT in the ED

Prof Cha has practiced medicine in the emergency department for over 20 years. In that area, efficiency and timeliness of clinical procedures are not an option but a necessity, he says. “For many situations, even a few minutes delay results in loss, even death”.

He had observed that medical errors could occur at any point during emergency procedures with the huge potential of causing actual harm.

For a successful ED, he says, governance and coordination are key. “In order to win through every night’s battle, teamwork is required; collective human intelligence is our greatest weapon”.

This organized effort is further enhanced through digital technologies, which could reduce the delay by providing an optimal path, connecting care providers, and improving communications.

Doctors as champions

For this HIMSS22 APAC speaker, the highlight of his career is leading the SMC Digital Innovation Center, which has successfully integrated all of the hospital’s teams involved in digital operations. “The synergy of these teams is the greatest power we have at SMC. This is how we achieved HIMSS INFRAM Stage 7 – the first in the world – within such a short period of time,” he claims.

As the director of this department, he is most passionate about helping physicians with IT concerns. He refers to them as “champions with a great passion for patients and research”.

“Physicians find the best and right way to use technology when properly explained… Successful IT projects always require ‘champions’ from the field,” he adds.

SMC is aiming to be the best smart hospital in the world, focusing on innovations in strategy, metaverse, AI, robots and telehealth. Since much of its journey involves entering uncharted territory, it has been cooperating with regulatory authorities and HIMSS to navigate through it.

Given the challenges posed by the ongoing climate crisis, COVID-19, and a rapidly aging population in South Korea, Prof Cha says it is imperative to “build resilient individuals and resilient healthcare systems” which can cope with uncertainty.

“Digital technologies will be great shields for us.”

Prof Cha will be speaking at the HIMSS22 APAC Conference during the keynote session, Digital Health Transformation – Leveraging Cloud. The conference will be happening in Bali, Indonesia from 26 to 29 September. Find out more here.

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