“My glass is just over half full”

Published on 04/08/2016 in Inspire

 “My glass is just over half full”

In a hospital, people are nursed, medical examinations take place, operations are carried out and more. But none of this would be possible without a huge amount of ICT going on behind the scenes. CIO Christiaan Polet at Ghent teaching hospital explains.

Christiaan Polet: “ICT is particularly important and it starts even before the patient is admitted or treated here.” Just one example: “A lot of people go onto our website to see which doctor will be treating them, and where they have to be.” Patient registration is computerized, too, with check-in desks that work via the eID. “If the system goes down for just a few minutes, we immediately get queues and a lot of disgruntled patients and staff,” Polet stresses.

“Then appointments start running late. And that’s just the reception function. We haven’t even mentioned the hundreds of medical and administrative software applications that run here. No, I can assure you, a modern hospital without high-performance ICT – that doesn’t work."

Four ICT departments

As CIO, Polet oversees four ICT departments: Operating applications (accounts, payroll administration, billing), Care applications (the electronic patient dossier, lab and pharmacy software, medical imaging), Infrastructure and Operation (servers, networks and telecom) and Support (service desk and contact center). “The challenge is that all the software applications and systems are linked to one another and consequently they interact,” he explains. “For instance, if the department where a patient is admitted changes, that impacts on the food distribution, medication logistics, patient transport, billing. We live in a digital age: our staff and our patients rightly expect that everything is available straight away, everywhere, all the time.”

Integrating applications

The fact that all the systems in a hospital are so closely connected sometimes makes integrating new software applications a tricky operation. “It’s not easy at all, and that’s the huge challenge for our team. We don’t often write or develop applications ourselves. We’ve got our hands more than full implementing, integrating and keeping things operational.” Given the high level of specialization required, Polet’s team members are almost all highly qualified. “There’s a wide range of profiles: software engineers, system engineers, network specialists, application managers, project leaders – you’ll find them all here.

Profiles like this are obviously in great demand on the labor market, but the staff turnover at UZ Ghent is surprisingly low,” says the CIO. “We offer a fair wage with a good holiday system. Since the economic crisis, I’ve noticed that more and more people are looking for stability in their job. And that’s something we can offer.”


Polet describes his management style as pragmatically positive. “In my view, the glass is usually over half full, but I still have both feet firmly on the ground. I try to coach, but of course, commitments have to be fulfilled, as well. That can only be done by actually going into the workplace yourself. I do that every day. I’m not quick to shut myself off in my office.”


Christiaan Polet is a civil engineer in computer sciences. He began his career at the University of Ghent and, in 2011, transferred to the UZ Ghent as head of Operating Applications. He has been CIO since June 2015 and he leads about a hundred people. In his free time, he likes to go jogging and play mini-football. He is also an AA Ghent supporter. 

UZ Ghent in figures:
  • One of the biggest teaching hospitals in Belgium
  • Just under 6,000 staff
  • Over 51,000 day admissions and 36,000 hospital admissions per year
  • Approximately 35,000 operations per year
  • A campus covering over 43 hectares
  • Almost 14,000 fixed and 1,000 wireless network connections
  • Data storage: 1,820 TB, annual growth: approximately 400 TB


One magazine is the Proximus B2B magazine for CIOs and IT professionals in large and medium-sized organisations.

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