EHI Live 2014: Are we on the brink of an eHealth revolution?

EHI Live 2014: Are we on the brink of an eHealth revolution?

This week E-health Insider (EHI) held their seventh annual EHI Live conference at the NEC in Birmingham, bringing together the UK’s growing digital health community.

I was lucky enough to go along to meet the innovators and entrepreneurs filling this space and hear industry leaders talk about their commitment to paving the way for a digital and innovative NHS.

eHealth has become a catch-all term for any healthcare practice that is supported, in some way or another, by gadgets. Think doctors carrying patient records around on their iPads, and ebola victims facetiming their doctors. But whether it adds up to a transformation of the way we do healthcare is a different question.

NHS Director for Patients and Information Tim Kelsey opened the conference with big claims of ‘revolution’. He emphasised the colossal value of data and technology for the NHS but admitted that we remain behind the curve when it comes to eHealth. He called for a learning approach, stressing that when things do not work as planned (such as they should not be branded as a failure.

The new National Information Board will publish a framework for action on the 13th November, accompanied by a speech from Jeremy Hunt on the role of technology in healthcare. Mr Hunt will be calling for GPs to get on board, for example through prescribing apps.

Day 2 was kicked off by Andy Williams, Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Information Centre, who, suggested the health tech revolution was coming “from the ground up”. Williams accepted that we cannot expect a smooth journey to a fully digital NHS but must have contingencies in place to protect public data when the inevitable problems occur.

The highlight of day 2 was a frank and insightful session with Beverly Bryant, ‎Director of Strategic Systems and Technology at NHS England. She frankly admitted that recent ehealth funding grants such as the Nursing Tech Fund and Integrated Digital Care Fund were not introduced as part of a strategic plan but because she saw some funding, and grabbed it.

The Tech Fund 2 bid winners, at the time ‘sat in Danny Alexander’s inbox’, should be announced today. Bryant’s next unenviable task is to identify a long term funding solution to replace the opportunistic innovation grants. Tech Suppliers everywhere will be eagerly awaiting news of this.

EHI Live was a fantastic platform for showcasing the real leaders in eHealth and their examples of innovation in individual hospitals. Hospitals like Addenbrookes in Cambridge and UCLH highlight that eHealth can have a transformative effect on the patient experience and outcomes.

It was inspiring to see so much progress in this area, but with ‘revolution’ as the buzz word of the day, I can’t help but wonder why it doesn’t feel like one.

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