What we learnt at NHS Expo 2017

Some of the DigitalHealth.London team on duty in the “Innovation Zone”

Our programme Director, Yinka Makinde, reflects below on her major learning points from 2017’s Health and Care Innovation Expo.

Earlier this month, DigitalHealth.London –  alongside thousands of delegates representing hundreds of companies, clinicians, and policy makers – attended the NHS Health and Care Innovation Expo 2017 in Manchester.

It was an action packed few days, with the NHS Five Year Forward View and Accelerated Access Review providing a focal point for a plethora of discussions and announcements.

A number of these considered the potential (and current) role of digital innovations in supporting its aims.

Several caught our attention:

  1. Jeremy Hunt unveiled plans for digital-led NHS treatment by 2018

Mr Hunt called the next 10 years “the decade of patient power,” pledging that every patient in England will be able to access their medical records and book GP appointments using an app by the end of 2018.

We’re already working with companies like DrDoctor and Babylon Health, through our accelerator, providing innovative digital tools that address this demand. Not only this, but we’ve met and worked with brilliant innovators working to empower patients to manage their own conditions. We can’t wait to see what the future holds as wearables and mobile phones literally put the power into the hands of everyday people.

  1. Official launch of the NHS Digital Academy

In partnership with Imperial College London, the University of Edinburgh, and Harvard Medical School, the NHS Digital Academy will provide specialist IT training and development support to 300 senior clinicians and health managers with the aim of shaping a generation of Chief Information Officers and Chief Clinical Information Officers that can help drive digital transformation in the NHS.

We already support this vision with specialist training for leaders in the NHS with an interest in digital technologies; and recognise NHS digital pioneers at our yearly summit. The NHS Digital Academy is an exciting initiative which we hope will bring leaders and practitioners together in a shared vision of better healthcare through digital technology.

  1. Announcement of the next set of Global Digital Exemplar, “fast followers,” including four in London

Global Digital Exemplars are NHS providers delivering exceptional care through “world-class” digital technology and information. Exemplars will share their learning and experiences with fast followers – trusts who will support the spread of best practice and innovation.

We were delighted that ChelWest, which has worked closely with CW+ – one of our partner organisations – was on the list, for its work in pioneering trials of several digital health innovations.

  1. Commitment made to anonymised data through the creation of Digital Innovation Hubs

Improvements in sharing and openness of data have enormous potential to improve care quality, lower healthcare costs, and increase patient choice; “Digital Innovation Hubs” will be set up to enable researchers to exploit anonymised clinical data, quickly. 

  1. The existing seven Test Beds have had their funding extended for two more years

Test beds are real-word trials of innovations that combine products and processes to improve patient outcomes more efficiently; whilst supporting economic growth. The ambition is to increase the number of patients impacted from 4,000 to 15,000 in one year; and we’re excited to see how the initiatives are serving as forerunners in demonstrating collaboration between the NHS and industry; something we support through our work on building London’s “Ecosystem.” 

  1. Commitment to machine learning and artificial intelligence

    DigitalHealth.London team member Lauren tries out an augmented reality headset, designed for training medical students

NHS England says that it plans to invest in machine learning and AI to speed up its application, particularly in diagnosis and analysis data from patients. There were also numerous exhibitors showcasing their ideas on how this could work, with augmented reality solutions already in use in surgical and anatomical teaching (check out the photo of one of our team giving an augmented reality headset a go).

We still have a long way to go before this vision become a reality, and there are currently limited number of tangible examples of machine learning and artificial intelligence being used in practice, but the pace of change is fast.

Reflecting on the above, it feels like there is a distinct and increasingly coherent movement towards digital innovations in health and care; the challenge will be harnessing the ambition and ideas into something joined-up and practical that has real impact for patients. We’re poised to support many of these initiatives, and encourage companies, innovators, clinicians and NHS professionals working in this space to get in touch – we’d love to help.