Catholic Medical Center trailblazing big data and AI adoption in Korean healthcare | Healthcare Asia Magazine
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Catholic Medical Center trailblazing big data and AI adoption in Korean healthcare

Its flagship Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital leads the seamless integration of cutting-edge technology across CMC’s eight affiliate hospitals.

When thinking of digitalising healthcare in South Korea, the university-based Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital (SSMH) easily comes to mind. In the last two years, this pivotal constituent of the Catholic Medical Center (CMC) — one of the largest medical institutions in the country — has succeeded in harnessing the power of big data and artificial intelligence (AI) to revolutionise patient care.

Leading this paradigm shift is Professor In-Young Choi, the visionary director of Digital Healthcare Headquarters at SSMH whose perspectives on embracing digital industry trends he shared in this interview with Healthcare Asia.

“Digitalisation is the linchpin of our era, and it is the ultimate conduit to delivering unparalleled healthcare services. It not only empowers patients with convenient access to healthcare but also unlocks a myriad of services, ultimately enriching the patient experience,” said the professor.

The CMC, she said, initiated a comprehensive digital transformation endeavor across its eight affiliated hospitals. Of these, Seoul St. Mary’s — which is the largest and flagship institution — stands out as a beacon of innovation. Underpinning this transformation is the creation of the Information Convergence Promotion Institute, a dedicated unit within the CMC structure

This institute comprises three specialised divisions, each with a distinct focus on electronic medical records (EMR), big data analytics, and AI integration. Furthermore, it has crafted an ambitious long-term digital transformation strategy, which prominently features the development of a clinical data warehouse designed to consolidate and harmonise data from the eight hospitals affiliated with CMC.

In-Young explained that this clinical data warehouse anonymises big data across the CMC hospitals, and integrates various patient data including drugs, laboratory data, nurse data, banking data, imaging data and digital pathology data.

Apart from facilitating analysis through big data, the clinical data warehouse stores 15 million patients’ data which allows hospitals to develop AI for their internal needs.

Mobile app for patients

With the support of big data and AI, the SSMH has succeeded in building various digital solutions to support medical personnel in providing personalised health services.

One of the things they have developed in the last two years is a mobile patient application. It provides a variety of services for outpatients and inpatients, from booking appointments, providing directions to service locations in the hospital, and accessing their lab results.

For example, once patients download this application and register, they can access their lab results where drug prescription information can be provided to the local pharmacy. They can also choose the food menu for their diet. “This is a feature that is quite popular among inpatients,” said In-Young.

Patients can monitor their treatment regularly through this application. Patients who suffer from diabetes can track their sugar levels. They can see the level graph whether it is improving or decreasing.

In developing this mobile app, she said that his party still continues to try to accommodate more patient needs, such as that of elderly patients who have difficulty using this kind of app.

“For elderly patients, we make their registration easier by simplifying the authentication features, for example by authenticating their Kakao application or bank account. So, patients can register their elderly relatives, of course after getting their permission through this application,” she said.

The issue of data security is also underlined by SSMH by ensuring their system is ISO-certified.

CMC’s clinical data warehouse, In-Young said, is based on data standardisation, where it also has processes. Researchers or doctors cannot take data carelessly without permission. “Even for researchers, they need to submit their research plan, and it will be reviewed first,” she said.

Digital therapy

In the future, Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital will continue to develop projects with AI support and plans to launch digital therapy.

At present, the CMC flagship hospital is working on applications that support AI-based patient decision-making, enabling remote healthcare services for patients with infectious disease conditions. In addition, they are also developing applications for smoking cessation, hearing loss in the elderly, dementia, and alcohol addiction.

The SSMH has 2,500 physicians and serves more than 7,000 outpatients and 1,200 inpatients, and performs about 130 operations per day on average.

“We continue to try to utilise big data and AI and implement algorithms to upgrade our mobile apps and provide more diverse care,” In-Young told Healthcare Asia.

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