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Interpretation is the most important task of a Chief Medical Information Officer

Teemu Vähäkainu

Head of data-driven care

Antti Hemminki is the messenger between healthcare staff and IT management

Antti Hemminki works as an ophthalmologist in the Seinäjoki Central Hospital in the Hospital District of South Ostrobothnia, while also dedicating a part of his worktime to developing the hospital’s information systems.

– For me, the goal is to have systems that serve our staff’s needs better. All too often, work is slowed down because of IT, Hemminki, who has taken on a dual role as doctor and Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO), explains.

– I’ll step down from the CMIO role once the systems work impeccably, he adds with a grin.

Hemminki graduated as licentiate of medicine in 2011. For the last two years he has been working as the Chief Medical Information Officer together with his colleague Mirja Tuomiranta. Furthermore, Hemminki is currently developing a children’s mobile game which supports visual acuity and contrast sensitivity examinations.

– It’s a gamified version of the E chart opticians and child health clinics use. I taught myself to code when I was younger, which is probably one of the drivers for taking on this project, Hemminki says.

Antti Hemminki, Chief Medical Information Officer of Hospital District South Ostrobothnia
Antti Hemminki, Chief Medical Information Officer of Hospital District of South Ostrobothnia

A messenger for the staff

According to Hemminki, the most important task of a CMIO is to deliver messages between the healthcare staff and the IT department.

– One could compare it to the work of an interpreter. We have two different actors who communicate with completely different terminology. My job is to make things understandable in both directions, Hemminki describes.

The work entails a lot more than just translating terms. The Chief Medical Information Officer is attuned to gathering suggestions and development ideas from the staff and passing them on to IT management.

– We discuss the different problems with doctors and nurses and try to find solutions to the issues. For the medical staff it can be difficult to know what is feasible and what is not. Many times, an issue that feels big and would simplify work significantly, is not at all difficult for the IT department to change. One has to get all the pieces of the puzzle to fit together, Hemminki says and continues:

– The nurses, doctors and secretaries have the best understanding of how systems work in day-to-day work. The aim is to create systems that support those daily operations smoothly.

The link between departments

IT management at the Hospital District of South Ostrobothnia sees the Chief Medical Information Officer’s role alike – the CMIO supports development and brings different departments together.

– The Hospital District of South Ostrobothnia employs approximately 250 doctors. The biggest benefit of having a Chief Medical Information Officer onboard is the clear and direct line of communication with the doctors. This is especially important when it comes to future planning and development, Information Systems Manager Markku Stenman points out.

The Hospital District of South Ostrobothnia updated its patient records system in November 2019. Stenman says that having a Chief Medical Information Officer involved in the process made the deployment much easier.

– Lifecare changed, for example, the process of data entry, which in turn caused some discontent among the doctors. The CMIO was instrumental in explaining that the system requires the entries to be entered in a certain order.

Better systems create savings

According to Hemminki, patients usually notice healthcare information technology only when doctors stare at their screens.

– A large portion of patient time is spent on computers, which is not a good thing. It also has implications on societies as the need for and the expenditure on medical staff increases.

Hemminki hopes that in the future solutions for processing patient data will become more efficient. Health data is multifaceted and challenging to process, but Hemminki believes that artificial intelligence could help in managing its complexity.

– I would mainly focus on data collection, storage, presentation and usage.

Hemminki says that AI is capable of solving complicated assignments, just as long as the assignments are comprised of simple tasks. However, the big picture still needs to be reviewed and managed by a human.

– Whether someone is healthy or not, is a complicated and deeply humane question. A person who is very ill can feel healthy and vice versa, Hemminki concludes.

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