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Alex talks about his role in the informatics department

Wednesday, 16 December, 2020
Alex talks about his role in the informatics department

Hi, I am Alex, and in my clinical work I am a haematology doctor working at the Freeman. I also spend 2 days a week working at Northumbria in the informatics department alongside Dr Karen Connelly and Dr Nikhil Premchand. I have always been quite nerdy, and like to be efficient (yes, I am great fun to be around) and informatics offers a means to bring those two together.

Clinical informatics is, in simple terms, the process of improving patient care by improving the computer systems that we use in our day to day work. Alongside ground-breaking advances like the integration of artificial intelligence into clinical practice, it is critical to make sure that the processes that we use now are as effective as they can be. Artificial intelligence will not be part of routine clinical practice for many years, so in the meantime, with an ever-increasing healthcare workload exacerbated by COVID19, better health IT systems will allow us to be more effective and take the edge off that workload.

There is often a feeling of a ‘disconnect’ between IT departments and clinical work. Staff usually call IT while stressed or busy, when they need to just be getting on with their job, but the printer won’t work or they are having problems accessing a system. This frustration fuels a feeling of distance from the IT services. This is completely understandable as we want to be able to do our jobs and not be slowed down and not be slowed down by inefficient systems. Some of these things are unfortunately unavoidable (printers just seem to hate people) but there are things that can be done.

My interest within informatics is user engagement, and my role at Northumbria is to be the bridge between IT and clinicians, to be told about issues with the IT systems that you use and then use my clinical perspective to work that through with IT and try to find a solution. We use IT systems at work every day, and will have positives and negatives to say about them. We are often guilty of sitting with our frustrations or ranting to a colleague about them but that cannot lead to change. In order to make things better, we need to hear more from the clinicians about what works and what doesn’t. This is the only way that we can make things better.

Furthermore, I know that my field of work is limited to working within haematology and so I am not aware of issues with their specific health IT systems or ideas that could help surgeons or radiologists for example. We need to hear about these ideas from you for potential developments in your departments so that we are aware and see if we can help deliver improvements. Any member of staff who sees an issue or a potential for an improvement in a system should get in touch-not just senior staff.

In this role, I will have the title of Digital Champion. It is pretty cheesy but it does sum up my role of being a champion for your concerns and ideas regarding health IT.

I am here until September 2021, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and can be contacted with any issues or ideas through the CCIO email address. This is available on the trust network directory. Please get in touch.