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Industry View: Health and Care Innovation Expo

Health and Care Innovation Expo 2019 was the biggest NHS-led event of the year. Held on 4-5 September at Manchester Central, it attracted people from the NHS, social care, local government, the third sector and the commercial sector. It focused on bringing the NHS Long Term Plan to life, and this year digital transformation played a key role.

HTN asked the health tech community for their comments, learnings and themes of the event:

David Hancock, healthcare executive advisor, InterSystems

The NHSX panel session on day two was very interesting. I was delighted to hear the panel talk about the need to focus on adoption of innovation and to scale it up and out across the service. There are many barriers to this and a consistent theme was that IT infrastructure is not up to it, and there needs to be continuous funding to keep the basics up to date, not just funding for headline grabbing AI. Amen to that.

It was also great to hear panellists say that interoperability is less about computers, and more about patient safety and the opportunity to change how care is delivered.  It is of course not purely a technical issue. People would be well-advised to read the Wachter review from 2014, which provided the justification for the global digital exemplars.  Crucially, it also talked about “Health IT entailing adaptive change” and that in order to solve the challenge, people need to learn new ways of working and everyone who suffers the problem must work together to be part of the solution. This requires being open, honest and transparent and recognising that we will all have to face uncomfortable conversations and situations as all parties work together to solve them.

Undoubtedly all of our customers face this. It is this type of change that makes it so challenging. It is also why INTEROPen, a collaboration of individuals, industry, standards organisations and health and care providers focused on the definition and adoption of interoperability standards, for whom I am vendor co-chair, works in such an inclusive way to solve these adaptive problems.

Lyn Whitfield, content director, Highland Marketing

It sometimes felt as if this year’s Health and Care Innovation Expo was trying to take place in several different timeframes at once. The programme was dominated by policies and programmes that are up and running; but the keynote speakers kept reverting to the issue of Brexit and how the NHS needs to at least try to prepare for it.

So, it was striking that the session that really seemed to engage the Expo audience was entirely future focused. The day two, lunchtime session on climate change attracted a noticeably younger crowd; one that was right behind NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens when he said, “the climate emergency is a health emergency” and the NHS should “act now.”

If the climate crisis has arrived on the NHS policy agenda, then health tech companies should take note. A lot of healthcare IT suppliers will have a good story to tell on how their products can reduce journeys for staff and patients.

Dame Jackie Daniel, the chief executive of Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said its global digital exemplar status electronic patient record deployment had “joined up records and imaging” to support services that did just this.

But a perceptive questioner asked if solutions were always being pushed as far as they could go, when he asked why the NHSApp is set-up to book people into traditional, face to face services.

As trusts look to become more energy efficient and to remove plastic from their supply and treatment chains, health tech companies may also find that they are being asked tricky questions about what they are doing on these fronts. Green data centres and plastic free packaging may take some time to engineer; single-use Expo giveaways might vanish quite quickly.

It was just one session at one conference, so has the mood changed, really? Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham thought it had and so did Dame Jackie, who said her trust’s decision to declare a climate emergency in June was linked, in part, to pressure from its employees.

“For us, part of being a good employer is facilitating this, because otherwise young people will just vote with their feet,” she said. Another issue that health tech developers, constantly on the look out for new talent, may need to bear in mind.

Martin Bell, Independent Consultant, The Martin Bell Partnership

NHS Expo is a great show case for innovation around technology and digital health in the NHS. It was another lively and buzzing year, with much going on across the 2 days. A few thoughts struck me as the conversations and conference progressed:

  1. The NHS, with private and public partners, can do innovation and there are lots of superb examples where healthtech is supporting the delivery of healthcare. This will only continue over the coming decade.
  2. We need to move on from the issues that have been with us for years, and fix these once and for all as part of the fundamentals. Talking up “the future” when there are still many issues for many in the NHS with the “present” simply doesn’t help.
  3. I’m not sure we need more “tech” (although we can’t of course, obviously, stop progress!).
  4. We need the health tech we have and is available to the NHS to be scaled and deeply penetrated through proper funding. The wide use of “what we have” would have far more impact than the latest “shiny new thing” as Simon Eccles once made reference too.
  5. We need services and organisations to be supported to make the change to blended delivery and/or Digital First – including the head room to do it.
  6. Central bodies should set standards and policy, and run certain key national infrastructure elements and then let regional and local leaders get on and deliver.

Let’s take the great stuff we have and use it, everywhere – and create a truly modern health service, delivered in person and digitally, but always in the most appropriate setting, and excluding no one, but equally not holding back those who wish to use different, digital ways to access services from doing so. In doing so we can help the workforce and funding challenges, and lay strong foundations for the next technology revolution to come, as technology never stops advancing.

Rachael Clarke, Pharmacy Superintendent, Co-op Health

Having only launched Co-op Health in May 2019, this was our first opportunity to visit the NHS Expo and it was such an amazing event to be part of.

What really stood out was the genuine passion that everyone had to make a difference and the shared understanding of the challenges that we need to overcome to become a truly digital healthcare system. Integration and interoperability seemed to be top of everyone’s agenda and came across really strongly as key priorities for all the speakers too.

Wendy Lane, Director of Consultancy Services, NHS Arden & GEM CSU

I was particularly encouraged to see a much stronger focus on data modelling to support improvement across the health service at this year’s NHS Expo. There were a number of sessions looking at how we can make better use of data, including drawing on the learnings from the Model Hospital, GIRFT and Rightcare programmes, and applying tools and techniques which will give us a much better understanding of how our health service is performing.

Data analysis is a major area of focus for NHS Arden & GEM CSU. Increasingly we’re combining business intelligence analysis and health economics techniques to help commissioners make far more accurate predictions about the likely requirements of their patient populations, as well as assessing the impact of service changes.

The growth in digital systems means the health service is becoming increasingly data rich. We’re now able to capture and analyse information that gives us proper insight into what is working well and where improvements are needed, both at a micro team level and a macro provider level. We need to continue to develop ways to use that data effectively, not only to improve patient pathways and clinical coordination, but to support better system utilisation and governance.

Kirsty Atkinson, Aire Logic

Expo 2019, the conference of firsts. After a recent move from an Acute setting Informatics Team to Tech Solution SME, this was the first as an exhibitor, supplier, and first Expo!

From crossing the divide to the role of supplier, there was a level of apprehension; I was about to be on the receiving end of onset of questions and did I have the answer.

The truth of the Expo is the enthusiasm within the NHS-led event is infectious as it is inclusive. I didn’t feel like a supplier. I felt the familiarity of my Informatics role explore the demands of the busy Acute setting. Such a role was not to provide a widely available solution but to help guide and develop the solution that fitted the clinical needs. For Expo, my role was not to provide the answer. Rather it was to start collaborating, sharing, participation and engaging, reflecting on the previous years’ work as a base and understand where the Health and Social care Leaders needed us to explore and develop to meet those needs.

The best conferences are those that start the conversations, and even when breakdown was called those conversations were still in full flow. I can’t wait for Expo 2020.

Shaun Kelly, Chief Nursing Information Officer, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust

This year’s Health and Care Innovation Expo was a great opportunity for Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust to demonstrate our innovative in-house development of ‘Digital Wards’.

Our approach sparked a lot of interest from other NHS organisations with similar goals in digital transformation.  This year the Expo was as good as if not better than last year. It provided a great opportunity to see new emerging and novel technologies that aim to improve patient care and experience in all areas of the health and social care arena.

The networking and educational opportunities around the Expo enabled us to consider the potential application of technologies and expertise to our specific cohorts of service users in a holistic manner.

I would highly recommend attendance to the Expo for anyone working in the digital or clinical informatics space as it enables you to see what the care and treatment of tomorrow looks like.

Michael Latimer, CEO, Isosec

2019’s NHS Health and Care Innovation Expo was a great success for Digital Health, from the talks and discussions we were having over the two days it felt very much like technology was no longer something the NHS is crying out for but is weaving into the foundations of the NHS of tomorrow. The presence from newly created NHSX was a huge boost and we certainly felt digital innovations like our Virtual Smartcard are in higher demand this time around. Having conversations with customers old and new where the appetite for digital tech is increasing daily and there is a sense of excitement about the future. It was all hugely encouraging and a lot of work has clearly been done in the NHS to encourage digital progress and adoption. We’re looking forward to seeing what next year brings as we welcome a new iteration of the Expo as NHS Confed.

Breda Corish, Elsevier’s Clinical Solutions Director, UK and N Europe

This year’s NHS Expo event was another great opportunity to join the debate about the future of our NHS with key opinion leaders and decision makers in health.

Against the background noise of Brexit, staff shortages and system pressures, what came across this year was the emphasis that technology alone is not the answer. The key takeaway was that successful transformation requires combining new technology with process improvements and cultural change in working practices. That needs to be underpinned by strong foundations, which enable standardisation of care and data flows for across system pathways – key themes in the presentation by Elsevier CMO Dr Ian Chuang, which clearly resonated with the audience!

Polly Shepperdson, Partnerships Manager, FDB (First Databank)

Adoption of digital technology was a theme that stood out from NHSX CEO Matthew Gould’s panel session. The need for the human element of digitisation has been spoken about in the NHS for a long time, but the focus in many cases is still the technology itself, rather than the people who use it, and this was certainly emphasised at the conference.

I completely agree that now is the time to really engage users for them to make the most of technology available, and for technology to work for them. This is a major drive for FDB.

In primary care, for example, we already work with two thirds of clinical commissioning groups across England, so that GP practices can use technology to make better informed prescribing decisions for the patients in front of them. This is having an impact on patient care with alerts helping GPs to make evidence based, locally appropriate, prescribing decisions based on the individual patients’ clinical record. A significant impact on the NHS prescribing budget is also being achieved – with CCGs last year reaching more than £100m of savings due to GP use of OptimiseRx prescribing decision support.

The challenge for us as an organisation now is about more than simply working with a further third of CCGs to expand this positive impact. It is about accelerating adoption of technology even further within our existing NHS user base, so that more and more GPs can embrace decision intelligence available to them. Part of this complex piece is about helping GPs to understand the mechanics behind prompts – exactly the kind of requirement that I think was underlined at Expo – and empowering them to validate and act on the patient information presented to them in alert systems. But it is also about giving GPs the means to participate in refining how such technologies are used.

This is about creating a safer and more efficient prescribing environment in the NHS, but one that will only work by communicating with the people at the coalface.

Bryn Sage, chief executive of Inhealthcare, for your feature on NHS Expo

The digital health sector in the UK is thriving with clinicians, commissioners and innovators building strong partnerships to improve patient care. We’re also seeing new alliances formed between medical device manufacturers and innovators to digitise care pathways.


The debate continued on Twitter, here we have selected 5 notable comments: