Leading the path in healthcare AI software development in South Korea

An interview with Dr Rong-Min Baek, CEO, Seoul National University Bundang Hospital (SNUBH).
By Dean Koh
06:03 AM

Above photo: Dr Rong-Min Baek, CEO, Seoul National University Bundang Hospital. (Credit: The Korean Society of Medical Informatics)

In his 16 years with Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, Dr Rong-Min Baek served in key executive roles in both clinical and managerial areas, from department chairman to Chief Medical Officer and Chief Science Officer. Currently the Chief Executive Officer of SNUBH, Dr Baek shares with Healthcare IT News some of the latest developments at his organisation as well as observations in the development of healthcare informatics in South Korea.

Q. Could you tell us more about your role as the CEO of SNUBH?

A. As CEO of my institution, the most important role is to set the final goal of institutional activities as national leading healthcare provider, and to make its vision shared by all of employees. Especially, it comes down to paradigm shift of healthcare service in terms of engagement with genomics, ICT technology, every C-level executive has to be aware of the importance of reliable technology adoption into the real world of clinical practice with limited resources.

Q. What are some of the major ongoing health informatics/IT projects happening at SNUBH?

A. SNUBH became the first stage 7 recipient hospital by HIMSS EMRAM outside of the US in 2010 (recertified in 2016) and it devoted lots of human and economic resources into digital healthcare. Recently, SNUBH is participating as the flagship hospital to apply common data model for shared research network in Korea, and also has a primary role in the artificial intelligence healthcare software development project funded by the Korean government. Also, we established the Healthcare Innovation Park, which is the biggest biomedical cluster building for cooperation between academia, hospitals and industries focusing on digital healthcare, genomic medicine, nano and regenerative medicine.

Q. You will be one of the panelists during the panel discussion on value creation in healthcare at the upcoming HIMSS AsiaPac19 conference in October held in Bangkok, Thailand. What does value creation in healthcare mean for you in the context of your role at SNUBH?

A. First of all, all of value created by technology should be verified from the perspectives of patients. New trials can contribute to patient safety, excellence of clinical service or reducing medical expenditure. And if those can also contribute more efficient management of hospital operations, and virtually, controls of national or regional resource deficiencies, then it can be said that a successful creation of new value is achieved. 

Q. What are your observations/thoughts on the developments of healthcare informatics and digital health in South Korea?

A. South Korea has one of the strongest IT infrastructures in the region, and developed its IT healthcare system earlier that other Asia Pacific countries. We also have the highest rate of R&D investment budget which facilitates innovative new-tech development, and the start-up ecosystem. Awareness in the importance of healthcare in the public sector is making huge waves in the transformation of healthcare in Korea now. 

Q. SNUBH is one of the leading hospitals in South Korea, being one of the first few health institutions within the country to be fully digitalised and paperless. Which key areas of developments will the hospital focus on in the next 3-5 years?

A. SNUBH thinks that the utilisation of cloud technologies, preparation of data science and the aggregation of clinical, IoT and genomic data are the short-term focused areas of developments for the hospital, and all of these efforts will drive us to the increased adoption of AI.

Dr Rong-Min Baek is a panelist at the opening keynote plenary happening on October 7 at the upcoming HIMSS AsiaPac19 Conference. Early bird rates for conference registration are still ongoing and more details can be found here.