On Wednesday 16 March, PICTFOR hosted their second event of the year. The in-person roundtable focused on Health Tech and was titled: How can Health Tech support the Government’s public health agenda and maintain well-being?
The session featured insights from NHS Director of Transformation, Dr Tim Ferris, Shadow Minister for Public Health, Andrew Gwynne MP, CEO of event co-host McKesson UK, Toby Anderson, Terrance Higgins Trust, Ian Green and CEO of the second event co-host OpenUK, Amanda Brock. The event was chaired by PICTFOR Co-Chair, Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG.
Please see below for minutes of the session.
- The event chair, Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG opened the event by welcoming all PICTFOR members, Vice-Chairs, and attendees from the wider tech community, and thanking them for attending the event. She also thanked the event Co-sponsors, McKesson UK and OpenUK for their role in the event. The Baroness then introduced NHS Director of Transformation, Dr Tim Ferris.
- NHS Director of Transformation, Dr Tim Ferris began by remarking on the recent acceleration of Health Tech and on the challenge of continuing to embrace and employ cutting edge digital technologies in the service of patients and clinicians. He optimistically noted that clinicians he had met throughout the country are hungry for the advantages of digitalisation, which he believes bodes well for the alignment of national leadership ambitions and frontline clinician adoption. He stressed that healthcare delivery is a complex adaptive system, and that as a result we need to adopt tech in a way that clinician and patients can both agree on. Referring to the Government’s sexual health strategy, he laid out the three ‘Ps’: proactive, preventative and personalised. Highlighting that these refer to using digital to allow citizens to reach out proactively about their health, actively looking for opportunities to prevent illness and hospitalisation and ensuring that the healthcare provided is relevant to an individual’s most important priorities. He closed by suggesting that the NHS could do a much better job at signposting their priorities, as this would enable Health Tech to innovate to tackle the UK’s greatest challenges, and stressed his excitement about the adoption of Health Tech across all health services nationally.
- Dr Tim Ferris then answered questions from the attendees from Fimatix, McKesson and the Terrence Higgins Trust.
- Shadow Minister for Public Health, Andrew Gwynne MP opened by noting that although the coronavirus pandemic has put the healthcare system under unprecedented pressure, it has also accelerated its digital transformation. He stated that the role of politicians such as himself is to help empower clinicians to improve patients experience, and he highlighted one area that he thought was ripe for technological acceleration: accessibility. He described the many factors affecting access to healthcare in the UK, from geographical divides to race and ethnicity. Referencing the work of the Good Things foundation, he described how programmes such as their Pathfinder initiative, which supported homeless people in Hastings to triage health concerns, can be accompanied by political willpower to help address national health inequalities. He suggested that we need to use tech to better engage patients and allow clinicians access to rural communities, as well as fostering partnerships at a local level. He then gave an example from his constituency of how investment in digital technology in care homes has provided far better health outcomes for patients. The Shadow Minister closed his remarks by stating his commitment that any future Labour government would work with private and public interests to create a better national healthcare system and provide a fairer society for all.
- CEO of McKesson UK, Toby Anderson described the running of Lloyds pharmacy, where McKesson have invested in many fulfilment centres in order to take the pressure off GPs and A&E departments, leaving pharmacists to do what they do best. He pointed out that unfortunately, most pharmacies are loss making and the majority of these are located in deprived areas. He then explained how Lloyds Pharmacy have improved patient care with AI technology, an example of innovation that should be provided to a larger number of people. He recommended that policy makers consider how to enhance digital access for private and public use, as many healthcare regulations are outdated and for pharmacies, they actively discourage success. He went on to state his belief that there are many opportunities within this sphere to combine positive health outcomes with levelling up opportunities for the British people.
- CEO of the Terrance Higgins Trust, Ian Green began his remarks by reflecting on the progress that has been made in tackling HIV in the UK over the last 40 years, to the extent that we can now say that we aim to end HIV altogether. He explained that one of the keys to achieving this the use of technology to benefit all communities, and in such a way that it tackles rather than feeds into the already existing health inequalities that most marginalised communities face. He remarked on the exciting developments that have been made in injectable and long-lasting HIV medication, as well as the transformation of testing that they pioneered and which has come to the fore due to the pandemic, even if postal and self-testing is still not available in every area of the UK. He stressed that data is very good at telling us who is most at risk of HIV transmission, and that we should use this information to proactively encourage these groups to test, as even a simple text message would be effective. He closed by reflecting that when it comes to reproductive health, we are often going backwards, citing the Government’s announcement that it would end telemedical abortion care in six months’ time, which is unfortunate as such a simple technology had revolutionised the ability of women who need abortion services to access quick, safe and convenient care.
- CEO of OpenUK, Amanda Brock set out that the key to OpenUK’s mission is an embracement of open technology, focusing on software and data. She explained how OpenUK had been working with the NHS on the utilisation of open-source software and that as a result they had seen a shift in enterprise. She pointed out that we need software to be at the heart of all companies and products, and that the health industry was no exception. She remarked on how the best and most innovative software is open source, due to its cloud infrastructure, custom nature, and the fact that most engineers use it. This means that we need to transition our national health service onto open source software, but are faced with its disjointed nature and an obstructive standards process. She gave the example of the UK’s test and trace system, which began on private software and was then opened up, comparing it to Germany’s test and trace which was always open and received a number of public improvements because of this.
- The event chair then opened up the discussion to the roundtable, and we heard from PICTFOR’s Industry Chair, Simon Blagden CBE, as well as representatives from TechUK. Baroness Neville- Rolfe then thanked all the speakers and attendees before closing the event.
You can catch up on the entire event below.