Building hospital competency, capability with enterprise architecture

Dr. Ariffin of Hospital USM is not just a medical practitioner and consultant anaesthesiologist. He is also a certified IT Architect – Associate, who allocates 60-percent of his work to building the teaching hospital’s capabilities, as well as building competency for technology, using enterprise architecture (EA).

How he is able to reconcile the two contrasting worlds of technology and healthcare, required two simple formulas: The first is that tech is just an enabler to achieve outcomes. The second is that a doctor has to work in a multi-disciplinary team, and no matter where he or she may be stationed at.

“We have to be agile and be able to adapt to solve new problems. And also have skills to understand organisational context and adapt to it,” he had once said at a healthcare tech roundtable organised by Enterprise IT News.

During a BITAS conference he presented about Technology, Innovation and Healthcare to a room full of enterprise architects who wanted to know how a medical practitioner views technology and would deploy it in the field of healthcare.

As it turns out, the methodologies taught in enterprise architecture, are very useful and Dr. Ariffin sees it being useful to apply emerging technologies in the teaching hospital he works at, Hospital USM (HUSM).

HUSM is a 35 year-old hospital is a teaching hospital with over 800 beds. It is currently being modernised however and Dr. Ariffin shared that as the Hospital Management System Co-ordinator, he coordinates the operation and the Information, Communications and Technology initiatives of the HUSM and Health Campus, by multiple stakeholders and providers.

This is to ensure value-delivery in the ICT initiatives for the campus in terms of patient and student-centricity, staff competency building, and developing a resilient knowledge management system.

Healthcare – humane industry vertical

In other words, he finds himself having to work with a multi-disciplinary team, and speaking three languages as a result – clinical, financial and administrative.

He shared that the hospital’s strategic plan till 2025 was just approved. But for HUSM to really reap the benefits of modernisation (and leverage technologies), the 3000-strong hospital staff have to be ready to take advantage of planned IT projects.

“Last year alone, I conducted 62 workshops for our 3000 staff. Of these, 1600 are nurses.

“Now, nurses can make or break the hospital, because they are the closest to our customers, or patients,” Dr. Ariffin pointed out.

Healthcare is a very human-intensive industry that calls upon all the qualities that intrinsically make us humans – care, compassion, ethics, principles, critical thinking, and more.

Even when artificial intelligence is leveraged during a hospital’s operations or clinical process, it is only to offer decision support. The final decision ultimately lies in the hands of humans.

Teaching healthcare

Dr. Ariffin also wanted to point out that HUSM is a teaching hospital. As such it isn’t under the Ministry of Health, but the Ministry of Education and with a mandate to produce doctors.

So, HUSM has two core activities of research & innovation, education & learning activities. These two in turn enable and facilitate their third core activity of providing clinical care.

These three activities are what keeps the hospital busy in terms of management of information activities and management of resource activities.

And with so much going on, it helps to have a visual representation of all the hospital’s activities, and their inter-relationships with each other. This is to ensure overall coherence in a state of omnipresent flux.

A complex adaptive system

Dr. Ariffin said, “A hospital is an example of a complex adaptive system, and Enterprise Architecture (EA) will model and allow the complexity of the system be represented and optimised, especially when an outcome of operations is tightly coupled with multiple complicated relationships among the components.”

Tools like Archimate allow a visual representation of these complicated relationships. Image attributed to

The topmost layer is an overview of the way the hospital functions. The one beneath that is the application layer that talks of the major application components that enables the business, along with their inter-relationships. The bottom most one is the technology/infrastructure framework that hosts the applications of the hospital.

“Healthcare is not static. It has to be put into proper context so that technology works seamlessly together to meet expectations of patients and medical professionals,” Dr. Ariffin concluded.