By Mary-Louise Clews on 27 March 2019
NHSX architect bids to forge a third way to a digital NHS – but what should be done now?
NHSX(perience) will forge a third way to bridge between the extremes of incompatible tech culture of moving fast and failing quickly, and the health sector tradition of collecting years of evidence before a change is considered safe, according to tech advisor to the Health Secretary Hadley Beeman.
Speaking to an audience of people representing both extremes at Digital Health Rewired 2019, Hadley promised the new Government body would create a single national approach to help local NHS commissioners and trusts adopt tried and tested digital innovation. Not a national program, nor letting ‘a thousand flowers bloom’, but somewhere in the middle.
So what key message did leading developers and CIOs on the frontline battling with the reality of getting digital products and services in the hands of NHS patients have for Hadley? What is the number one thing NHSX should do tomorrow to help digital innovators improve patient care?
Here’s what people in the exhibition hall had on their wishlists:
Stephen Docherty, CIO of South London & Maudsley NHS Trust and Chair of London CIO Council wants to see two things: “Endorsing a way forward on procurement from an NHS platform perspective”, he said, and a commitment from NHSX to “find out where the pockets of good stuff are happening and give them a guiding hand to help scale across the NHS.”
Meanwhile Joost Bruggeman, CEO of Siilo and former clinician, says he is prepared to share his code and wants that to be the norm among NHS suppliers that focus on NHS Experience so the interoperability headache can be solved: “I want to see a lego box created so we can all integrate by sharing our lego box to build an amazing digital health service for patients.”
Elsewhere, Helena O’Neill, newly in post helping the Institute of Physics launch an accelerator at its impressive Kings Cross building for start-ups and entrepreneurs building physics-related innovations, and former DigitalHealth.London Accelerator navigator, echoed the call for better, faster procurement: “We need to see a speeding up of the procurement processes to halt the tech talent drain from the health sector”, she said. This echoed Beeman’s earlier admittance that she found the refusal of smart coders to be involved in the NHS due to bureaucracy “heart breaking.”
When asked for her views, Dr Indra Joshi, A&E consultant and NHS England clinical lead on digital health and AI, echoed her recent review in The Lancet of Eric Topol’s book Deep Medicine – How Artificial Intelligence can make Healthcare Human Again. She said: “If we can get all parts of the system to collaborate and share to ensure data-driven technology is developed in a safe, ethical, evidence-based and transparent way, then we are winning.”
Finally, dedicated health tech entrepreneur Tom Whicher, whose company DrDoctor has worked stoically with the NHS over the past few years to embed its online outpatient management portal to save the system and patients huge amounts of wasted time and money, just wants to see behaviour change: “The culture in too many NHS organisations right now is ‘do nothing”, he says. “In 2019 it needs to be demonstrated to trusts that doing nothing is far worse than getting on and doing something [to try out how tech can improve services for patients].”