By Jamie Innes
Blog 5 July 2016

Digital health is the biggest opportunity since the internet. That was the line picked up by The Yorkshire Post after my speech to the Digital Health and Wellbeing Festival in Bradford last week.

I told the audience that businesses in this nascent sector need to work together to kickstart the market.

The internet was exactly the same way in the early 90’s. All the companies got together then and look what happened. Digital health is a bigger opportunity and a bigger challenge in my view. Healthcare systems across the world are facing increasing demand, escalating costs, rising expectations and public spending constraints.

As product director, I believe that funding should be prioritised on redesigning care services instead of buying iPads and creating new apps. I would like to ask that we do not do any more pilots. The NHS has more pilots than British Airways.

The NHS needs to think about pathway redesign. Leeds West Clinical Commissioning Group did it brilliantly with the chronic pain pathway to create PainSense. They looked at improving the outcomes of patients across Leeds and they used technology as a part of it. They didn’t run a pilot, they ran an evaluation.

We work with the NHS to digitise care services across the country. Our flagship INR self-testing service for warfarin users reduces strokes, helps patients lead more independent lives and eases the burden on the health service by cutting clinic visits.

The Digital Health Enterprise Zone in Little Germany hosted the two-day festival last week, attracting more than 100 guests for 25 speakers and 18 demonstrations.

Ali Jan Haider, director of commissioning at Bradford CCG, told the audience:  “What we are not good at in the NHS is self care. We have created a culture in the last 30 years of dependency where patients feel even if they cough they have got to go and see their GP. We have patients pitching up at A&E with their nail varnish the wrong colour thinking it could have an adverse effect on their health. How do we realign those patient expectations?”

He added: “Self care is where the innovation is. I have got a FitBit. It cajoles me to walk 10,000 steps. What if we gave every person in Bradford a FitBit and said if you get 10,000 steps (a day), at the end of the year, we will give you £100? That would save more money than we spend at the moment on obesity and health-related conditions like poor diet and poor exercise.”

The Digital Health Enterprise Zone is a £13m programme led by Bradford University and backed by BT, Bradford Council and the Government. It is designed to connect people, health and care services, businesses and universities to create the future of care.

Ian Sharp, chief executive, said: “There are a lot of products out there that claim to be fix-all solutions but it in reality there is a big question mark. It is really important that your trial is set up properly, sponsored properly and you have enough cash in place to be able to fund it. In a healthcare setting, there are innovation processes in place with clinical commissioning groups and trusts to be able to do some of that. But there is a difficulty in connecting with the market. It is the same problem on the other side of the fence that the SMEs have. That’s why DHEZ is here. We want to help with that gap and convene those conversations in a safe environment where academics, SMEs and the NHS commissioning people can get together.”

We would like to wish the Digital Health Enterprise Zone the very best of success and look forward to following its progress.

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