Digital Initiatives within the Yorkshire Region

By Irina Trentea, aql

The first Digital Leaders Yorkshire Salon was held on the 2nd of February at aql headquarters in Leeds City Centre and was focused on Innovation in Digital Health. Three local businesses, from large to small, showcased new technology approaches for delivering sustainable innovative health care systems. The salon also discussed the challenges that these initiatives face when dealing with public organisations with complex care systems and pathways, trust services and governance.

The lead speakers were Kath Lancaster, Independent Nurse Consultant, Victoria Betton, Founder and Director of mHabitat, Stephen Wilcock, Managing Director at Egton and the panel was chaired by Dr. Adam Beaumont, aql CEO and founder.

Challenges and Success Stories

After 35 years of experience in the nursing environment, Kath Lancaster developed the Lancaster Model, which has become today the basis for the HAPI portal, an easy to use web-based app enabling parents, children and young people to complete an online health assessment.

Although a highly innovative platform, in line with government directives, allowing nurses to perform an early intervention and prevention process, there have been barriers to implement the portal on a government level. The NHS were unable to approve a private initiative, however there is hope that with a more rigid monitoring, the commissioners and trusts will become more engaged and roll out the portal as a national program.

Victoria Betton, Director at mHabitat discussed the strengths and challenges of digital health innovation. People working for the NHS or even patients are developing a lot of technology within the health sector, but few of these ideas come to fruition. Ms Betton mentioned success stories, such as Mersey Burns, a free clinical tool for calculating burn area percentages, the 11 health company, started by bowel transplant patient and entrepreneur Michael Sears or the BPD Twitter live chat set by a Sheffield patient diagnosed with BPD.

Nevertheless, one of the biggest challenges with health innovation is the complexity of healthcare systems and governance. The amount of pressure that NHS staff is undergoing makes innovation hard and optional. “The NHS might look like some mighty blue whale from a distance but up close you soon realize it’s a massive shoal of fish all swimming in different directions” said Ms Betton.

Other initiatives, like Egton, an IT infrastructure firm part of Leeds-based EMIS group, seem to be more successful in developing “joined up healthcare” across NHS and the healthcare industry. Stephen Wilcock, its managing director, said that the company handles 40m patient records, and is developing GP website solutions designed to engage with patients and pull in information from NHS health choices. He envisioned a healthcare system where processes such as appointments and prescriptions were made online, and patient information was shared between GPs, specialists and emergency staff to improve they way healthcare is delivered.

Recommendations

Whilst there is still a mis-match across many public and private organisations, there is also a lot of work going on to remove barriers and taking these innovations to scale.

Ideas and innovation can come from anywhere but it is important to encourage these initiatives, foster trust and collaboration between different parties and ensure that our reliance on digital technologies doesn’t increase inequality. 50% of people registered disabled are not able to access the Internet, but yet are likely to be the highest users of health services. We must design future eHealth platforms with and for them. Martha Lane Fox’s key digital recommendations for the NHS are a great guideline for the future of Digital Health Innovation across both the private and the public sector.