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Building together with Dr. Benjamin Tam

Posted May 19th, 2022

Dr. Ben Tam. A man in a blue suit with funky glasses smiles for the camera

Dr. Benjamin Tam is the  Digital Strategy Physician Lead for Niagara Health’s hospital information system.

Dr. Benjamin Tam has always had an interest in building things.

After coming to Canada with his family when he was just three years old, young Benjamin grew up in a mostly Chinese-speaking household. He spent his younger years in classes with other kids who were learning English as a second language and had a bit of a tough time making friends.

“As a youngster, I was alone more often than not,” Dr. Tam recounts. “Moving to a new country with my family and not speaking the language here was challenging, and I spent a lot of time by myself.”

However, as Dr. Tam thinks back, it wasn’t all lonesome thanks to that love of building things.

Core memories are those that represent key moments in our lives – memories that are central to each of us. Dr. Tam has a core memory about a time he was outside playing alone with a deck of cards. He was using all the cards in his deck to build a towering house. As he built his tower bigger and higher, kids from his neighbourhood began to join in and they started building, too.

“If you build it, they will come and build with you,” Dr. Tam says. “It’s just like what we’re doing now with our new hospital information system.”

Pioneering leading-edge care

Dr. Tam joined Niagara Health in 2018 to care for patients in our St. Catharines Site Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Last year, he joined the team that will build Niagara Health’s new hospital information system. He’s the Digital Strategy Physician Lead and one of two clinicians providing direction to the project.

His interest in building together is also why he chose to make his career as a critical care physician.

“I love working in the ICU, working closely with other clinicians,” he shares. “I could never run an ICU alone. The nurses would laugh at me trying to start IVs and everything would be chaotic.”

But together, as a team, they are able to care for very sick patients because they work in partnership, collaborate and build together.

When the position for Digital Strategy Physician Lead for Niagara Health’s hospital information system project first came available, Dr. Tam was immediately interested.

“It spoke to me right away,” he says. “I love the idea of building something together that serves us as clinicians, is better for our patients and their families, for our organization, and for the Niagara region."

Over the next two years, Dr. Tam will help to build Niagara Health’s new modern hospital information system. It’s the technology that will manage electronic medical records and is a critical element to support Niagara Health’s delivery of modern, world-class healthcare services. This new state-of-the-art technology will help to manage healthcare data and improve the safety, quality and consistency of patient care across the health system in our community.

While the name of the new hospital information system and the vendor Niagara Health will work with to build it aren’t confirmed yet, one thing is for sure – it will transform care for patients by allowing quick and easy access to health records, providing opportunities for improved communication, and ensuring quality and consistent care across our health system.    

For his part, Dr. Tam is eager to get building.

“I took this position because I saw an opportunity to pioneer leading-edge care and build innovative programs, infrastructure and tools to help improve the health of our region,” he says. “The opportunity to develop these early stages and build the foundation on which we will continuously improve is once in a lifetime. I’m excited, honoured and proud to be part of this big team lift to get this off the ground.”

Next steps for the hospital information system

The new hospital information system will go live sometime in the spring of 2024. Between now and then, Dr. Tam and his colleagues are focused on engaging with stakeholder groups – physicians, nurses, other healthcare professionals, patients, families, community organizations, and many more.

“Engaging with our stakeholders is going to be central to building the hospital information system so it works for all of us,” Dr. Tam says. “We need to build together.

“Our collective success depends on our commitment to engaging, communicating, collaborating, and finding ways to marry the best of what we offer here at Niagara Health today with the new digital systems that will empower our next steps.”

He’s looking forward to connecting and working together to build the system that is going to transform healthcare in Niagara. And he’s hoping, that just like the kids in his neighbourhood, lots of people will come build with him.

Niagara Health System