In this edition of our Interview Series we talk with Lauren Bevan from BJSS, to discuss the impact of COVID on the health tech industry.
Can you tell me about some of the projects you’ve been working on over the past few weeks?
We’ve been working a lot with NHS Digital on the core areas that they’ve been working on such as the e-referral service, working on the NHS App and making lots of changes that allow people to access more remote care. That’s mainly developing of existing tech.
We have done a lot of work on the NHS website previously, which has been a key resource for lots of people recently. The website received 3.4 million hits in one day in March! Our work was around content modularisation, to make it easy for people to find what they need, and to group related information. Also, we’ve helped citizens to make sense of health data and information by developing an intuitive content design.
What impact do you think COVID has had on health tech?
We think it has been really interesting. If you had asked me six months ago, I’d have had a very different view. There are lots of people who have gone above and beyond like AccuRx, who has really made an impact. These companies have released products at short notice and made it easy for people. They have done a brilliant job. I think that they are the poster child of how good tech can work, be responsive, agile and quick.
The other side of this, are organisations who have similar offerings yet we are seeing them furlough people and applying for the government loan scheme; I was expecting some to thrive in this environment but it seems that the story of the tortoise and hare, where the hare has now overtaken them.
I’ve looked at the value of tech in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I think that the ability to keep people away from hospitals, as well as things like e-commerce and all sorts of other things, have suddenly been repurposed and used in ways that are embedded in people’s lives. It will be fascinating to see where people have been throwing things into the health and care system to make things work, and what they would now keep, what isn’t working for them anymore and what was really working for short term needs that’s now dissipated.
How do you think the industry can keep some of the great things that have happened or do you think it’ll pull back to where it was?
From a behavioural science perspective, some of these things have become so ingrained so quickly that it would be very difficult to pull them out of the fabric of how to deliver care now. I think that is a really good thing.
GP consultations are a prime example of where a system can be more efficient. Previously there was a lot of resistance not because the tech didn’t exist, but because the behaviours weren’t there to support people to do it. I think in those examples where people have been pushing for five or six years, people have now thought ‘that wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be’.
I think there’s going to be areas that will have been neglected. There’s going to be a surge of COVID activity in care homes and other places, who are again the poor relations because they haven’t had the budget to spend on it. When we are talking about care home tech innovation, it’s like people have just been given iPads. It’s not quite what I would stay is a tech revolution – in the nicest possible way.
Then from a secondary care tech perspective. Just because they have got a larger workforce, doesn’t mean they have necessarily resisted change, but it has been slower to spread. I don’t think people have had the mental capacity to work through what’s the problem, how can I co-design this, how can I build it, if there’s an off the shelf thing – everyone has gone, “I’ll have one of those”.
Could you tell me about one of your projects over the last 12 months you are most proud of?
There’s a couple of things I’m really proud of what the team have done, one of the things that we worked on was with a regional Ambulance Service. We did some biometric fingerprint work with iPads to allow ambulance crews to be able to access patient records on the go. They can then quickly understand more about the people they are dealing with and make a different clinical decision around what needs to be done. This work was then extended to introduce video calling, with there being huge value to eyeball someone.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
In this line of work, you need to put some boundaries on your work and life. I think that a lot of us are working dawn till dusk at the moment. I think it feels a little bit like there’s a big cause we are all working for and nobody wants to be the one turning in early. I believe that in tech we get told you get paid for your brain and not for your brawn. Thinking about that now particularly when you’re trying to innovate and come up with something new and fresh, it’s tough to do that when you’re absolutely knackered. So getting adequate rest is not a selfish act.
What is your go to entertainment at the moment?
As most people are, I’m finding solace in Netflix. I’m celiac so I can’t do the token bread baking and banana baking that everybody else is doing. I’m quite jealous of that though.
What advice would you give to somebody aspiring to enter the industry?
Ask lots of questions and don’t feel like you ought to know the answers; I still learn stuff every day. I’m still turning to google to understand random acronyms and what different technologies are, and it can seem like everyone knows the answers and you don’t. But actually none of us do. I’ve been doing this for a few years, and I still have a pad that keeps notes and things of things I don’t understand. It’s OK to feel like you don’t know and it’s fine to ask lots of questions.
One of the things that has proved really important in the current climate is just how important having different voices in the debate is about things. There’s a lot to be said when people are talking about diversity and technology, but when people are struggling to get hold of users, sometimes your fallback option is to speak to your colleagues. If your team isn’t surrounding itself with people from different backgrounds, different genders and all sorts of variations of different then solution design will really suffer as a result of it.