UCL News


The future of health informatics

26 January 2005

UCL's Centre for Health Informatics & Multiprofessional Education (CHIME) has hosted a lecture by Professor Denis Protti, a world-leading academic in the area of health informatics.

Professor Denis Protti lectures at CHIME His talk reflected on the past, present and future of the field.

CHIME, established in 1995, was the first academic department on UCL's Whittington Campus. The central concern of CHIME - the study of health informatics - brings together academics from a range of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, computer science and biomedicine to consider how information is used in all contexts in healthcare; from the effective documentation of patient records to the production of clear, accurate written materials which can help a patient to understand and manage their illness.

Originally a relatively minor field, interest in health informatics has burgeoned. Professor Protti talked about where the expansion of health informatics may lead the discipline to in the future. In his talk, entitled 'Dare we predict where we are going in the 21st century?' he emphasized the need for caution when guessing what the future will bring. Established in the 1960s, health informatics is still in its infancy, and rapid advances in technology mean that academics in the area will always need to think on their feet and respond to change as it occurs. 

Dr Henry Potts, a lecturer at CHIME, explained that the computerisation of the NHS has driven interest in the field: "With the advent of the National Programme for IT (the NHS 10 year upgrade of IT systems) the subject has become crucial for all health professionals. Changes in the law - including the issue of written consent when a patient undergoes an operation - have also had an important impact. These days, doctors need to be able to prove that a patient has genuinely understood the risks of their treatment, and health informatics has a big role to play in this."

CHIME runs MSc courses for health professionals in health informatics and risk management, as well as IT courses for medical students and consultants. Other projects ongoing for CHIME include a pilot study looking at 'reverse mentoring', where young medical students meet with senior doctors and teach them IT skills that will help with their work, which has so far met with great success, said Ms Jeannette Murphy, a senior lecturer at CHIME: "Younger people generally know much more about computers than the older generation. Medical students are delighted to have the opportunity to make contact with older, more experienced professionals in their field, and the older professionals benefit from increased IT knowledge. It's a relationship which works well for both parties."

In 2005, CHIME will celebrate its 10-year anniversary with a series of events.

Image: Professor Dennis Protti lectures at CHIME.

To find out more about CHIME use the link below.