Bishoy Dimitri, chief clinical information officer (CCIO) at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and vice chair of the Digital Health Networks CCIO Advisory Panel, chats exclusively to Digital Health News about his career journey to date, his current digital priorities and ambitions for the next 12 months.

The journey to Oxford CCIO

Going back in time to being at medical school, Bishoy remembers becoming interesting in healthcare systems and organisations beyond just clinical medicine.

“I was always interested in the bigger picture, despite my passion and love for medicine, as well as going through that sort of degree,” Bishoy told Digital Health News.

“Once I started working as a doctor, I felt daunted by which career path I was going to take, as it’s usually standardised when you end up being a GP, surgeon or medical doctor”.

Bishoy explained that some of his medical school colleagues were leaving the career completely, but he was set on staying in the NHS.

“I was very passionate about the NHS, I think it’s a wonderful organisation, it’s a great service,” he said.

“But it needs help, that’s the way I approached it. It needs people to change the way that we do things and transform the way in which we approach the same challenges that we’ve had for many, many years.”

He started as a junior doctor and always asked his consultants why they chose their specialties, in an attempt to discover what he wanted to sub-specialise in.

“I always felt that my hunger for systems change was greater than my passion for extending down a specific sub-specialty to choose as a career path to be a consultant.

“So as part of that, I was always striving to make quality improvement changes and leadership improvements within the organisation in terms of improving the efficiency in the way we do things,” he said.

He recalled a “pivotal” conversation he had with the chief executive of Tameside Hospital, in which he suggested things that could be done better at the hospital, having trained there for two years, and mentioned that he may apply for a job in London which combined clinical work with supporting those in leadership.

Bishoy was subsequently offered a role at Tameside where he could split his week between clinical and non-clinical work, and eventually became deputy CCIO at the trust at the end of 2021. He then went on to became CCIO at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, in December 2022, a position he still holds today.

Current digital priorities

Bishoy described his role at Oxford as “a big opportunity to make and incite changes in an organisation which you could argue is very digitally mature, but in many ways it’s actually difficult for staff to do their day to day functions because of the number of digital solutions that we have”.

“As much as we’re trying to get our basics right, we’re also trying to be ahead of the curve by thinking of AI and the latest tech that we can bring in to support our clinicians,” he added.

He explained that as the trust is a large organisation with four hospital sites, lots of requests are received from people to push forward with digital solutions.

His aim is to reach a point where the trust can risk assess the many requests it receives and prioritise projects based on its needs, the problem they are trying to solve and whether the solution fully does that or is “just the next new shiny thing”.

Another key priority for Bishoy is clinical safety and ensuring all the IT software and systems the trust implements are safe and have all the correct documentation.

He said the trust’s electronic patient record (EPR) system needs addressing as things keep being added to it to the point that it is “no longer really functional”.

Bishoy likened it to a Swiss army knife with so many different functions that it is no longer simple for staff and is instead more of a burden.

Digital hopes over the next 12 months

“The biggest thing for me is empowering patients,” Bishoy explained. “If we can give patients more access and better access to their data, which we have, then hopefully that will change the lens on the way that they approach healthcare so that they can be more empowered and know exactly what’s going on with their health,” he added.

His goal over the next year is to increase the number of users of the trust’s patient portal and make it easier for patients to access their health data.

He confirmed the trust’s intention to be as integrated as possible with the NHS App in order to boost communication between patients and doctors or clinical teams.

As well as embedding a better culture of safety and clinical safety across the organisation, Bishoy hopes to be able to improve the sharing of data across regions and systems in the NHS by linking in with other shared care records.