Meet Our Member: Chris Nolan

Institute of Health Care Informatics in Ireland

Chris Nolan, director of the Institute of Health Care Informatics in Ireland, will be working closely with eHealth Week, which will take place in Dublin, Ireland, on May 13-15.

eHealth Week 2013 brings together the High Level eHealth Conference co-organized by the European Commission and the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and WoHIT (World of Health IT Conference & Exhibition) organized by HIMSS Europe.

Nolan has more than 40 years of experience in health IT, including nine years with the Irish Government Health Service and five years with the UK National Health Service. He has also worked on projects with a large multinational health IT company, Shared Medical Systems (SMS), and globally as a country manager of SMS in Ireland. Nolan has worked on acute care hospital information systems, laboratories, pharmacy, radiology and imaging, as well as all other departments, including finance and administration.

His past and current positions also include director of Healthcare Informatics Training Services Ltd. in Ireland; founder member of the HealthCare Informatics Society of Ireland and the Healthcare Informatics Standards Committee of the National Standards Authority of Ireland; board member of the EuroRec Institute and joint owner of a nursing home, residential home and community care organization.

HIMSS: How did you become involved with HIMSS Europe?

Nolan: I have been a member of HIMSS for more than 20 years, long before HIMSS had any organizations outside North America. In the last decade, HIMSS organized gatherings to discuss how international members could be more active and receive the services available to North American-based members. International chapters, individual country-based HIMSS sections and many other permutations were discussed. About six years ago, HIMSS Europe was established under a Governing Council (GC) supported by the HIMSS board, and I was invited as a HIMSS member to volunteer for that board. I served for five years and was also served as vice chair for part of that period. During that time, HIMSS Europe evolved with a fulltime office in Brussels and developed an annual conference, WoHIT.   HIMSS Analytics Europe was established, and now holds democratic elections to the GC and has begun to recognize individuals with the introduction of the HIMSS Europe award.

HIMSS: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your involvement with HIMSS?

Nolan: Networking with colleagues from all over the world and having the opportunity to extend my personal knowledge.

HIMSS: Please describe some of the milestone events in your career.

Nolan: I founded with colleagues the Irish Computer Societies Medical Specialist Group in 1976, which eventually evolved into HISI. HISI is the official Irish representative body to the International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA) and the European Medical Informatics Association (EFMI). Joining the board as vice president of the European Electronics Health Records Institute EUROREC over the last decade, and working to establish the European Quality labelling of electronic health records, has been quite a challenge. From 1972 till 1998 I worked for Shared Medical Systems SMS, and saw most of the world working in the Far East, Middle East, and Europe, as well as visiting North America, which gave me a broad perspective of clinical systems. Now, I am working on professionalism of the individual to establish health informatics as a profession in its own right. We established I-CHIP (Certified Health Informatics Professional) with our colleagues in UK- CHIP, which is based on a European self-assessment and peer review model. I have supported CPHIMS, which is by examination and look forward to an internationally recognized curriculum with professional grading structures for healthcare informaticians. Finally in giving something back I was one of the co-authors of an online course (HITS) for the appreciation of what healthcare informatics is about and how it helps healthcare professionals do their job more effectively.

HIMSS: What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced, working in an international arena?

Nolan: Though one can observe some commonality in the delivery of healthcare, it can be surprising how diverse it is. Then, language that must be catered to and cultural differences must never be underestimated. The one-size-fits all, under these circumstances, then becomes a massive challenge as many multinational suppliers have found out. The lack of standards over the many years has also been a draw back in achieving the holy grail of he paperless solution.

HIMSS: What are the most notable changes you’ve seen in the field of health IT over the course of your career?

Nolan: Too many to describe, but the move to digital and the speed that data can be transmitted has been phenomenal. One example is the storage and retrieval of clinical images. Twenty years ago, we could store four chest x-rays on a disk drive the size of a filing cabinet and take 30 minutes to retrieve them. Look what happens now!

HIMSS: What advice would you give professionals just entering the healthcare or IT field?

Nolan: I would say get totally involved in health IT, which is more enriching than any other IT field, and know you are contributing to better wellness and healthcare of your fellow citizen. If the next 40 years moves as far and as fast as the last 40 years, I cannot imagine how life will be. I know that the healthcare informaticians will have made an important contribution to it though.