Today we are talking to Zafar Chaudry, chief information officer at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where the £200 million eHospital digitalisation programme is running. With an unusual fictional choice in dinner guests, he also tells Digital Health News about his previous career as a used car salesman.  

Why did you become an NHS CIO?

I became a CIO because 25 years ago I sat in a room in a hospital in Chicago, and they made a big speech about why clinicians should engage in technology and offered a training programme and I thought why not give it a go and move to the dark side.

Within your organisation, what is the most significant digital achievement of the past 12 months?

From a digital technology perspective, over the last 12 months our biggest achievement is to have our own private cloud running in excess of 350 systems that are all stable, protected, backed up on state of the art technology.

What will be the most significant of the next 12 months?

Our high performance computing platform that will run the Genomics Project, which will run the exact same technology that the next generation Mercedes and BMW are being designed on.

What’s the biggest barrier to being a more effective CIO?

It’s not having a seat at the board. When you compare us to American organisations where I’ve worked, the CIO/CMIO roles are board level positions and have been for many years, and I don’t think that light bulb moment has gone off – for some trusts yes but for other trusts no.

What’s the biggest barrier the NHS faces overall in achieving digital transformation?

The NHS not understanding what the definition of digital is.

We don’t really know what the definition of digital is. When you look at goals, we talked about this paperless environment. It was first 2018, 2020, 2023. It’s because we haven’t truly defined the envelope of digital so I think they need to do some work to first define.

If you were a digital organisation, what would that be?

If you have one piece of advice for other NHS CIOs, would would it be?

Get out and talk to your colleagues, and understand about their services, their problems, the way that they work, the way that they need to work.

Who in the NHS do you admire the most and why?

Louise Shepherd who’s chief executive of Alder Hey Children’s Hospital because of her passion for building that new facility in Liverpool, a deprived area of the country.

And, she’s been at that for 15 years, so I admire her passion the most.

If you were given £30 million to spend on digital transformation within your trust, where would that money go?

I would spend £10 million of that on enabling technologies and £20 million on that in new healthcare facilities, because I truly believe because of capacity issues across the NHS, the aging population, chronic diseases etc. we need to focus on infrastructure, more than we need to focus on buying multi-million pound technologies.

What is the most over-hyped digital innovation in health?

Big data, because I don’t think anyone really knows what it means.

What is the most under-rated digital innovation in health?

The electronic patient record, because it’s only recently that everyone has jumped on that band wagon but it’s been around for a very long time.

And a few non-digital questions, what’s the worst job you’ve ever had and why?

Used car sales, because you at times had to sell things to people, which you probably didn’t believe were the right thing to sell them.

If you could invite three people, alive or dead, to dinner who would they be?

Captain Kirk, Darth Vader and Tyrion Lannister.

What’s the background image on your home computer?

The Mercedes S63 AMG.

What’s your favourite piece of technology at home and why?

Alexa, because she’s so nice.

If you could have any other job, what would it be?

To run an airline.

In a film of your life, who would play you?

Eddie Murphy, I think I’m funny but nobody gets my jokes.

Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy was Chaudry’s selection in the movie of his life.