Eight highlights from e-Health Week 2017

Beverley Bryant, NHS Digital’s director of digital transformation, outlines its current programmes at e-Health Week 2017.

E-Health Week 2017 took place at London’s Olympia from 3-4 May. There were keynote speeches, presentations from the global digital exemplars, and a very loud flashmob out on the exhibition floor. Lyn Whitfield picks out eight highlights and take-homes. 

Two very different speeches:

Matthew Swindells, NHS England national director for commissioning, operations and information: Swindells has been a ministerial adviser, briefly the NHS’ first chief information officer, and a Cerner executive.

He often seems impatient at the slow pace of NHS digitisation, and those responsible for it. In his first speech after taking up his current job, he said the NHS’ processes for capturing and using information looked like “banking in the 1950s” and “there is really no excuse for it.”

True to form, he finished his speech at e-Health Week by challenging his audience: “Do you have the bottle, as IT people, to step up and tackle these problem, or are you going to sit in your office, delivering one more maternity system?”

Juliet Bauer, NHS England director of digital experience: Swindells’ newly appointed colleague is very different. Bauer was a journalist for ten years, who shifted into the public sector after the traumatic birth of her second child.

As she told the Guardian in advance of e-Health Week: “As I observed healthcare from a hospital bed, I became fascinated by how the service struggled to make the most of information and technology, and to provide the insight, products and services that are commonplace in other areas of modern life.”

Bauer said immediate changes will include the rebranding of NHS Choices as nhs.uk, which will become the ‘gateway’ through which patients can access their records this September. She also reminded visitors that NHS Digital has launched an apps library and a platform for developers. 

Andy Kinnear head of BCS Health promotes the Well Connected pledge
Andy Kinnear head of BCS Health promotes the Well Connected pledge
Andy Kinnear head of BCS Health promotes the Well Connected pledge

One pledge (still available online):

A group of five organisations representing NHS informaticians used e-Health Week to launch a new campaign, Well Connected, to support professions and professionalism.

The campaign, organised by the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, CLIP, The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, the IHRIM, or Institute of Health Records and Information Management, and SOCITM, the Society for IT Practitioners in the Public Sector, came with a pledge:

I will play my role in supporting a health and care system that uses information and technology to deliver the best for our communities [and] I will value and respect the contribution, expertise and motivation of those working to create a digitally-enabled health and care system, just as I expect value and respect from those I deal and work with.”

Two take-homes from the GDE programme:

Paul Rice from NHS England at a meet and great session at e-Health Week 2017
Paul Rice from NHS England at a meet and great session at e-Health Week 2017
Paul Rice from NHS England at a meet and great session at e-Health Week 2017

NHS England set up a global digital exemplar programme following the publication of US ‘digital doctor’ Professor Robert Wachter’s review of NHS IT last year. So far, sixteen acute exemplars and seven mental health exemplars have been announced.

At a lunchtime “meet and greet” session at e-Health Week, Paul Rice, head of technology strategy at NHS England said these trusts were already identifying “fast follower” organisations, which would take the impact of the programme from “sixteen organisations to the high 30s.”

Blueprints are not just tech specs: He also gave out a little bit more information about the ‘blueprints’ that the exemplars and their fast followers will be asked to develop, to roll-out digitisation further. He stressed that they would not just be a “technical specification” but get into some of the “human factors” that make projects work, like board and clinical engagement.

The programme will be evaluated: Rice added that “evaluation of the programme will be critical”, and NHS Digital is about to tender for an evaluation partner. 

Two national surveys to watch out for:

The digital maturity index will be refreshed: Last year, NHS England asked trusts to complete their own digital maturity assessments, to set a baseline for how measuring progress on the implementation and use of healthcare IT.

In his lunchtime session, Rice said it was planning to “refresh” the digital maturity index that it drew up on the basis of the assessments. “We are about to go out to the NHS and ask it to do that again.”    

A baseline assessment of usability is on the way: Beverley Bryant, NHS Digital’s director of digital transformation, also told e-Health Week that she wanted technology that was both useful and used.

She acknowledged that one impediment was the usability of many systems, and indicated that NHS Digital is about to go out and find out how good or bad things really are. Specifically, she said the US product research organisation KLAS would conduct “a baseline survey” on usability, with a launch “in the next few weeks.”

Beverley Bryant from NHS Digital outlines its work to e-Health Week 2017
Beverley Bryant from NHS Digital outlines its work to e-Health Week 2017
Beverley Bryant from NHS Digital outlines its work to e-Health Week 2017

One (or two) more date(s) for the diary:

Bryant also ran through many of the programmes that is working on to deliver better infrastructure, national services, standards, cyber security advice, and support to the NHS.

SNOMED CT in 2018 and 2020: One change she emphasised is the impending shift from Read Codes to SNOMED CT as the NHS’ vocabulary for electronic records. GPs will be expected to be using SNOMED CT from next April and the acute sector from April 2020.

This is a big change, particularly for secondary care, where little or no progress has been made to date. However, Bryant insisted that machine readable data was essential for both better data collection and use and interoperability. “There is no point in being a national health service if we do not capture data using national standards and clinical terminology.”

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