Collaboration will enable healthtech sector to thrive

Corby Ganesh, portfolio director at GovNet reflects on the outcomes of HETT 2019.

In October more than 4,000 healthcare professionals and vendors descended upon the ExCeL in London to share knowledge, key challenges and best practice at HETT 2019 (Healthcare Excellence Through Technology). After three years as the UK Health Show, HETT returned to its origins as a dedicated healthtech and digital health event, seeking to bring together the UK’s digital health community under one roof.

Our key objective this year was to create a standout event, where the broader digital health community – from digital leaders through to those at the frontline – could come together to be part of a genuine transformation conversation. The event provided the perfect platform to share success stories from around the sector and to foster an inclusive environment for true collaboration.

Speakers across the two days included Matthew Gould, CEO of NHSX, who discussed how his organisation would help to bridge the cultural differences that exist in the NHS, between medical professionals and tech innovators, by working more closely with the healthtech sector. He added: “We have a lot of work to do, but if we can get it right, the rewards for staff at frontline, patients and innovators will be huge.”

Rachel Dunscombe, CEO for the NHS Digital Academy, spoke about the importance of putting people ahead of technology. She stated that only 22% of the success of implementing a new digital solution is down to the technology, and 60% is down to the people who are making it happen – the clinicians and patients. She challenged the audience to remember the importance of people when implementing new systems and to build business cases accordingly, ensuring that funding is secured for training and change management, as well as for the new technology.

The interrelated subjects of culture and people were also raised by James Freed, CIO of Health Education England, who said: “The healthcare sector’s biggest challenge is how we create organisations that are governed smarter, as well as a workforce, and indeed population, that learns faster and feels able to solve the problems that they are beset by on a daily basis.”

He went on to add: “Whether you work for a national, local or independent organisation, a supplier, an academic partner, or local government, we all have our own perspectives on the healthcare sector. When we bring those perspectives together we start to see some real magic happen, and that’s what I’ve seen here at HETT.”

During the event, Liz Ashall-Payne, CEO of ORCHA, announced a new collaboration with NHS London Procurement Partnership focusing on a new Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS), which will provide NHS healthcare providers and the wider health and social care economy with the roll-out of mHealth applications.

Whilst global healthcare spending continues to increase dramatically, and the UK market has shown consistent growth over recent years, we do face some unique challenges – and these were discussed during the two-day event. For instance, despite there being a clear need to push forward the digital agenda in UK healthcare, it was widely accepted that progress is currently being held back by political uncertainty, lack of funding and a technologically unprepared workforce.

It is fair to suggest that healthcare has struggled to embrace the technological and digital revolution at the same pace as other sectors, but the benefits of doing so are clear. AI and remote monitoring continue to the have the most disruptive potential, followed by wearables, IoT (Internet of things), virtual reality, 3D printing and blockchain. In fact, mHealth, which refers to the use of smart mobile devices and wearable technologies that collect health and wellbeing data, was a hot topic and focus area at last month’s show.

However, to implement these successfully and to maximise their potential, there are some significant barriers to overcome – including updating legacy IT systems, interoperability between different parts of the healthcare system (and sometimes within even the same organisation), use and security of data, funding, lack of collaboration between the NHS and suppliers, and a digitally under-skilled and disengaged workforce.

These areas are a key focus for HETT, so for us the opportunity is as much about helping the healthcare sector address these as it is embracing the exciting technological advancements on the horizon. Ahead of next year’s event we will look to build and develop the communities we have created and provide a forum for honest discussion, true collaboration and insightful debate around digital transformation.


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