45 Minutes with Kristian R. Sumabat, RN, CPHIMS

By Jerome Babate /Joseph Andrew Pepito

We are opening 2015 with a big salvo lining up a series of interviews with Filipino nursing leaders from all over the globe. As the local business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is hitting an all-time high in terms of employment and revenue contribution, we manage to get in touch with Kristian Sumabat (Kit) who is the Founding President of the Philippine Nursing Informatics Association (PNIA) and is an active member of various international health informatics organizations to get his insights. Kit worked in various fields of the IT industry for over 13 years including 7 years that focus in information systems in different healthcare settings.


45 Minutes spoke with Kit about nursing informatics in the country, how nurses can become more comfortable with technology and the benefits it can have for their career.

What drove your passion to start nursing informatics in the Philippines?

I just happen to have the right background, having been educated in BS Computer Science from De La Salle University-Manila prior to my nursing education. I've always been comfortable with computers and gadgets. In fact, I remember that instead of giving immunizations at a health center, I was asked by the nurse to help fix their computer.

I believe that nursing informatics  was formally introduced in the country when in 2010, I organized the Philippine Nursing Informatics Association (PNIA) together with Mia Alcantara-Santiago, Harby Abellanosa, Sheryl Ochea, Noel Banez, Pia Pelayo and Xandra Bernal. I was taking MS in Health Informatics at UP-Manila at that time when the Commission on Higher Education approved CMO 14 which requires health informatics instruction at the undergraduate nursing level. We felt that there is a need to organize and help educate future nursing professionals on how technology can be used to improve the nursing practice.

At this point, nursing informatics in the country is still in its infancy but I know it has the potential to leapfrog ahead of other countries. We are in a "chicken-or-egg" state where there not a lot of nursing informatics professionals because there's not a lot of nursing informatics educators and vice versa. As they say, "you cannot teach what you do not know". There's really just a handful of people who would really have the training and experience in this field which I think are qualified to teach others. It's easy to read books and do research on informatics but designing, building and implementing health informatics systems and projects are very different. Our role is exactly to bridge this gap. It's not easy but it can be done.

Why is adapting to technology so important for nurses?

I think technology adoption is a natural evolution for any industry. The military, financial sector, education, and even weather forecast turn to technology to realize their purpose. Nursing is not new to the use of technology either. Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, used technologies considered "hi-tech" during their time to gather and analyse data which paved the way to improvements in healthcare. She systematically documented care on charts and presented evidence which one can argue as the equivalent of modern electronic medical records, medical statistics and data analytics.

As technology evolves, so too must be the way nurses use technology. Tablets and mobile phones, cloud computing, big data analytics and even robotics have now become ubiquitous in the society. So why not use it in nursing practice, education and research?

In what way can technology enhance nurses' careers?

As I always say, "modern hospitals need modern nurses". Training in informatics is a must for all nurses nowadays. Soon all hospitals will use computers and mobile devices. Tele-medicine and tele-nursing will be new "normal". The "5 R's Drug Administration" will be complemented with the "R's of Health Informatics: Right technologies for the right users, using the right standards, at the right time and right price".

Having the knowledge, skills and attitude towards technology can help nurses in many ways. In documenting care using electronic medical records; in collaborating with doctors and other health professionals; in doing research and gathering evidence to improve care and healthcare operations. Just like Nightingale, all nurses must be able to use technology to their advantage.

How many nursing informatics professionals in the philippines at the moment?

We're (the PNIA) still working on the scope of practice of nurse informatics in the Philippine as this is slightly different from the rest of the world. I say different because we ae one of the top countries for healthcare BPOs where nurses are the primary knowledge workers. Unlike in the US where a lot of nurse informatics professionals are designing and implementing software in the healthcare industry, many are working as coders and medical transcriptionists.

If we only consider nurses who design and implement health-related software, I would say there are about 20 nurse informatics professionals. If we include healthcare BPO professionals, there could be thousands!

Any nursing informatics research-related activities you are up to?

As of now, I'm working with De La Salle University-Manila on analytics and some healthcare IT -related  projects. I also serve as a visiting professor for post-graduate studies at Cebu Normal University where we are launching the first Center for Nursing Informatics in the country which will showcase latest technologies from Microsoft, HP and Samsung for the health sector. The Center will also serve as a hub for nursing informatics research which I will be involved including a Nurse App which aims to unify the most common and time-consuming information tasks of nurses into one application for both desktop and tablets. I'm welcome and invite collaborators to the Center!

What are your tips for helping nurses become more comfortable with technology?

I always tell nurses that "you won't know how to swim unless you get in the water". The best way for anyone to be comfortable with anything is to try it and use it regularly until it becomes a habit.

Jerome Babate & Joseph Andrew Pepito