Telehealth and telecare take centre stage as industry leaders exhibit best healthcare innovations
More than 10,000 people visited the Excel Conference Centre in London this week to find out about the latest developments in healthcare technology at the 2013 NHS Innovation Expo .
The event showcases the very best new ideas on the market, providing clever ways in which health providers can improve services for patients while making financial efficiencies in line with public spending cuts.
Attracting delegates from the public, private, academic, scientific and business communities, the show featured an exhibition as well as packed conference programme.
Together we face the same challenge that every other health economy across the globe is facing – how do we continue to drive improvements in quality and value in a tighter economic climate?
Keynote speaker, NHS chief executive, Sir David Nicholson, said: “The NHS is woven into the fabric of our society and is a public expression of our social values. At its best, the NHS is world class, but sometimes we fall short of the high standards we set ourselves and together we face the same challenge that every other health economy across the globe is facing – how do we continue to drive improvements in quality and value in a tighter economic climate?”
The answer, he told delegates, was for the UK to take a different stance to most national healthcare systems and embrace technology and innovation in an effort to drive through the change needed.
He said: “Different healthcare systems are approaching it in very different ways. Some are continuing to increase the amount of resource they put into it and are growing the system. Some are taking really draconian measures to reduce costs. Some are reducing the pay of healthcare workers by 10-15%. And some are dealing with it by asking ‘how can we reduce the offer to our communities’.
“We are taking a different, ambitious and courageous view to take the NHS into the next period. What we are saying is that, broadly within the same amount of money or perhaps a little growth, we are going to move forward not by dramatically reducing pay, although restraint is a part of it, and not by reducing the offer to patients, but by transforming the way we deliver healthcare and doing it in a way where patients are central and can participate.”
This is where medical technology and innovation will be key, he added.
At its best, the NHS is world class, but sometimes we fall short of the high standards we set ourselves
“This Expo is where we show off about the great things we can do and where we think about and brag about what we can do for patients,” he said. “It is where we get the NHS together with academics, industry, the voluntary sector and others to make great services for patients and for the NHS.
“More than 10,000 people will visit over two days and it is a great opportunity to take services forward for patients, but the thing that pulls all this together is innovation. That is the thing to make the difference over the next few years.
“Innovation is not just about fantastic bits of exciting kit or medical technologies, it’s about the way we deliver care. We have a national responsibility, as well as at a local level, so the Government has identified a number of innovations that we can help the NHS to implement overall as a whole county. These we are saying are so significant we will commit ourselves to doing it everywhere.
“Moving forward it is about building collaborations to ensure everybody gets the best possible treatment as rapidly as they possibly can. That’s why we have introduced the NHS Innovation Scorecard and why we have developed Academic Health Science Networks.
“Our approach does not need to be one of how do we cut costs. If that’s the body language of the NHS of the future then we will not deliver great services for patients. It is not what we need to do. It is perfectly possible, and there is lots of evidence that it is possible, to improve quality and reduce costs at the same time.”
The Expo featured more than 250 companies and organisations displaying innovations ranging from IT systems and solutions to devices to enhance privacy and dignity and to combat healthcare associated infections. But perhaps the biggest impact was made by the sheer scale of telehealth and telecare technologies, innovations which are seen as key to providing patient-centred, cost-effective health and social care services in the future.
It is perfectly possible, and there is lots of evidence that it is possible, to improve quality and reduce costs at the same time
Sir David said: “Prevention is important. The challenge is going to be to work in partnership with people who have medical conditions. We need an NHS that supports people.
“Telehealth and telecare give people a sense of security and give them their lives back. It is about having a relationship with a healthcare provider in the home setting.”
As well as the main exhibition hall, the event also featured a number of specialist areas, including the Innovator’s Den , where people with ideas for products or services could pitch to experienced entrepreneurs, NHS leaders and venture capitalists. The feature was backed by the Technology Strategy Board and concentrated on digital, MedTech, and service challenge innovations. A total of 15 companies made it in the Den, including Renfrew Group, TicTrac, and Crescent Diagnostics.
Elsewhere, there was an Apps Zone, featuring the very latest healthcare applications and giving visitors the chance to test them out; and a Dementia Village, which provided a lifelike simulation of a typical environment in which a person with dementia may live, giving an opportunity to explore and understand the solutions that can best help to improve the lives of people with the condition.
The Expo is a fabulous example of what happens when you bring together the right people, the right ideas and create the right conditions for the brightest and best to flourish
Miles Ayling, director of innovations for the NHS Commissioning Board and the man in charge of the Expo, said: “It has certainly been a period of significant change for a lot of people, but I think it’s also the start of a very exciting time. That’s why the timing of the Expo was so appropriate this year. Not only were there scores of world-class innovators for people to meet, but, for many, it was a chance to see what the reformed NHS looks like and what those changes mean in practice.
“All exhibitors were involved because they have truly innovative ideas to showcase and the zoned layout, speakers and the seminar programme were all designed to inspire, as much as to inform.
“It is important we make innovation a core part of NHS culture and that good ideas can be identified, assessed and spread. The Expo is a fabulous example of what happens when you bring together the right people, the right ideas and create the right conditions for the brightest and best to flourish.”
One of the organisations attending the event was the NHS National Institute for Health Research's Clinical Research Network. Its chief executive, Dr Jonathan Sheffield, said: "Innovation is at the heart of everything we do. We are delighted to attend the Expo to showcase our work to support the development of treatments for patients more quickly and effectively. On the stand we demonstrated new technology tools that provide vital intelligence on clinical trial delivery and that will help to improve the successful delivery of research studies to time and target."