Meet our featured member for June - Sofia Michopoulou

Sofia is a new Cohort 7 member

Odoo • Image and Text

Please could you introduce yourself and give a quick overview of your role as Principal Clinical Scientist?

I am a (registered) Medical Physics Expert in Imaging Physics at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. In my role, I lead the development of imaging services in Nuclear Medicine and Positron Emission Tomography, translate state-of-the-art imaging methods into routine clinical practice and support clinical trials primarily in oncology and neurology. Prior to joining the NHS, I did a PhD at University College London during which I developed a method for computer aided diagnosis of spine disease from Magnetic Resonance Images using Artificial Intelligence (AI).

We’re delighted that you’ve recently joined the Faculty as a Member, could you let us know how you found out about the Faculty and what were your expectations when you joined?

I learned about the Faculty from the Topol Fellowship Team at Health Education England, and it was a privilege to be invited to apply for membership and to receive a bursary from the National School of Healthcare Science. As a new member I look forward to the multiple training and networking opportunities provided by the Faculty. I also aim to contribute towards the development of Clinical Informatics through participation in the Faculty’s special interest groups particularly in the field of AI.

As a Clinical Scientist working for the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, how did you begin working in informatics and what drew you to it?

As a physicist I’ve always had an affinity for data and numbers, and am working in the medical data science field for 15 years. Within the NHS, I see clinical informatics as a vehicle to ensuring patient care is data driven, supporting evidence based medicine and improving the safety and efficacy of diagnosis and therapy.

In my role as a clinical scientist, I develop image analysis methods to support clinical diagnosis. Am also currently undertaking a Topol Fellowship with Health Education England, a scheme designed to support fellows to lead digital transformation in the NHS.  For my project I use AI methods to help improve the timeliness and accuracy of dementia diagnosis.

How do you think the Faculty could influence the clinical informatics landscape and in what ways would you like to see it develop?

With its’ multi-disciplinary and diverse membership, the Faculty is well placed to help define inclusive professional standards in clinical informatics. Additionally, it could become a key player in providing continuous education to healthcare professionals and developing guidance for the procurement and safe deployment of information systems including AI solutions in healthcare organisations.

In the current COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a rapid increase in the sharing of patient information in all aspects of life. Which aspects do you think have been positive and should be maintained, and how can we protect patient data in the wake of the virus?

One of the unexpected positives has been the paradigm shift towards “research for everyone”. The pandemic created an urgent need for rapid recruitment of patients and volunteers to clinical trials. By recruiting as many people as possible we were able to identify effective treatments for COVID-19 (dexamethasone) and to evaluate the efficacy of vaccines in under a year. Having experienced the benefits of this new approach, we are now working to roll this out to all aspects of clinical care in the NHS. To protect patient information, we need to further develop secure platforms for electronic data recording and sharing, guided by the principles of information governance and medical ethics. Such platforms can help optimise data use for patient benefit. 

Following on from this, what are some key ways in which we can build public trust and be transparent with how their data is used?

Providing information on how patient data is stored, used and shared is the first step towards building trust. Providing patients with access to their own data through electronic health platforms such as the NHS app and in Southampton through My Medical Record platform helps improve transparency. Enabling patients to provide or withdraw consent to their data being used and shared, in a simple and accessible way, such as through the NHS app could help enhance pubic trust. Providing real life examples of the impact of data sharing on patient care can help the public decide how they wish their data to be used.

Finally, what guidance do you wish you had been able to offer yourself when starting out in informatics?

Don’t worry about the details when you start a project, but make sure to engage with stakeholders early on. Your patients, clinical colleagues, and information governance team can help you optimise your project design to deliver clinically valuable user friendly tools. Also, use Agile for your software development tasks.