By Jeremy Nettle

More than 120 entries were submitted to the Health Tech Newspaper’s Health Tech Awards 2020, and our advisory board has whittled them down to a shortlist of six for the #HealthTechToShoutAbout category. Chair Jeremy Nettle considers what they reveal about health tech today.

It was inevitable that this year’s Health Tech Awards would be dominated by the coronavirus emergency. Almost all of the entries that weren’t just product descriptions talked about the way in which NHS trusts had deployed or adapted healthcare technology as part of their Covid-19 response plans.

So, one of the things that came through from reviewing the entries for the #HealthTechToShoutAbout category was just how hard suppliers and NHS IT teams worked in the early days of the pandemic and what a positive impact that work had delivered.

Entries described the roll-out of the remote working solutions, virtual consultations, virtual visits and remote monitoring solutions that have already been discussed in the press and are starting to attract the interest of think-tanks.

But they also described the accelerated deployment of e-obs and e-prescribing systems that in normal times would have taken many months, alongside the rapid development of dashboards and tracking boards to support operations and clinical care.

Another thing that came through clearly was the innovative use that staff were prepared to make of IT, once it was available to them. More than one entry talked about clinicians developing in-hospital ‘telehealth’ solutions that combined cameras, video links and remote access to records to get expertise to patients without wasting valuable personal protective equipment.

#HealthTechToShoutAbout

Having said all that, the advisory board didn’t want the #HealthTechToShoutAbout award to be a Covid-19 work award.

When Highland Marketing sponsored the Health Tech Awards for the first time last year, we said that we wanted to identify work that had made a difference to the NHS and to patients, that addressed a ‘hot’ topic in health and care, and that could be replicated by other organisations.

Although the coronavirus is still circulating, and the NHS is gearing up for a difficult winter, we wanted to stick to those principles. For all the impressive work that was done this spring, what the Covid-focused entries really showed is that there is good, enterprise-level IT out there and that the NHS can adopt it when it has a pressing need – and the leadership and resources that go with that.

What we wanted to do was to create a shortlist that highlights the potential of newer, less well-understood technologies to health and care, and that identifies projects with impacts beyond Covid, that will benefit organisations as they get into the NHS’ long-term reform agenda.

In an ideal world, entries might do both things. But we found the sharpest differences in opinion about the shortlist focused on the degree to which innovation should be balanced against replicability, and the degree to which improving processes should be balanced against patient impact.

Of course, I’m not going to say now how those debates played out. Our shortlist is below, in alphabetical order. The winner will be announced in October. It would spoil the online awards evening to say now who that is, but I’m pleased to say that we are confident we have found an entry that has #HealthTechToShoutAbout.

Bolton NHS Foundation Trust and Qure.ai: Applying AI in the fight against Covid-19: applying algorithms to chest radiography to deliver faster and more accurate diagnosis.

Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, ChatHealth: A safe, secure messaging service that puts young people and patients/carers in touch with healthcare professionals. Used by schools and health visitors nationwide.

London Ambulance Service and Abbott: Online diagnostic ambulance: using online point of care testing devices within an ambulance or single responder setting, prior to hospital.

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and Otsuka Health Solutions: Integrating data sources through the MsST Covid-19 dashboard: a pilot focused on identifying and proactively managing the safety of those using secondary mental health services across Mersey Care.

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and DrDoctor: Follow-up management enables patient to take greater control of their healthcare, providing the tools to report symptoms remotely from the comfort of their own home.

St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Refero: Extending a telehealth and video consultation service to multiple departments, following a successful pilot in cancer drains outreach and stroke review services.

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Jeremy Nettle

Jeremy Nettle

Industry Advisor
Jeremy is one of the best-known and most experienced figures in healthcare technology, having worked in the sector for more than thirty years.

He started his career as a clinician in the NHS and went on to become IT director at Salisbury Healthcare NHS Trust from 1997-2002. From there, he moved into the private sector when he joined Lockheed Martin as director of business development within the public sector; a new sector for the company.

Jeremy went on to work for Intellect (now techUK) as chair of the Health and Social Care Group, giving a voice to more than 260 suppliers on IT policy issues, before joining Oracle as director of business development, EMEA healthcare and then global client advisor for Health and Life Science.

Jeremy is now semi-retired, but still works as a health and social care business advisor and sits on the board of companies, educational organisations and charities. Since January 2019, he has also chaired Highland Marketing’s advisory board, which is available to the agency and its clients for advice and support on effective communications and marketing.

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