International Women’s Day: Innovation in action

Anna King is Commercial Director for the Health Innovation Network South London. In this blog she reflects on learnings from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' International Women's Day event and the opportunities to maximise the impact of innovation on women's health.

This week, the Health Innovation Network had the privilege of participating at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) International Women’s Day event. The theme of the event was ‘Innovation and Action in Global Gynaecological Healthcare’, which shows the important that the College is placing on innovation to improve the health and care for women globally.

The whole event was inspirational, with speakers talking to how they are testing and implementing innovations to their clinical colleagues, whether new medical devices, diagnostics or digital solutions.

The event was a fantastic opportunity to catch up with some of the alumni innovators from our DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme – which support companies to spread and scale. I was particularly proud that the team from the South West London Integrated Care System were able to highlight how they are using GetUBetter to support the women’s pelvic health in the gynaecological pathways, in addition to the other muscular offering.

The Health Innovation Network was delighted to specifically partner with Professor Asma Khalil, Vice President for Academia and Strategy as well as Consultant in Obstetrics and Fetal Medicine and St George’s University Hospital, on the last session of the day ‘Celebrating the innovation driving women’s health improvement’.

This session gave the audience an opportunity to hear about some fantastic innovators, many of whom have benefited by working with their local health innovation network. I was pleased to have an opportunity to draw out many of the lessons we have learnt supporting innovators.  Highlights included:

  • Hearing about their continued successes of PLEXaa, who participated the the Accelerating FemTech Programme we ran for InnovateUK, in partnership with RCOG and others. Plexaa is helping breast cancer patients in the US and UK benefit from better wound care healing was a personal highlight.
  • Learning about The Tydeman Tube, which was developed at St Thomas’s hospital to assist with the caesarean delivery and is being launched to the market soon.
  • Professor Angie Doshani, founder of the JanamApp, discussing how partnering with your target audience can lead to co-designed and co-produced innovative health solutions. In the case of JanamApp, this kind of partnership led the development of a pregnancy information app for the south Asian community in a completely different direction to what had originally been envisaged

Listening to our FemTech alumni and some other brilliant innovators in this space also prompted me to reflect on some of the commonalities associated with success. A great idea is of course a fairly essential prerequisite for innovation. But one of the foundational understandings of our DigitalHealth.London programmes is that a good idea in and of itself is rarely enough to make an impact on patients or health and care systems. Innovation is a team sport, and often it is collaboration which makes the difference between a great idea and a truly impactful product.

Many healthtech innovations are the brainchild of clinicians. But regardless of individual brilliance, there will be times where you need to bring in a wider team, different perspectives, or a new connection to make the most of your innovation.

In a week where we launched applications for our latest DigitalHealth.London Evidence Generator Bootcamp, it seemed particularly timely that a number of innovators reflected on the challenges of evidence generation and regulatory approval. Finding the right expert partners is essential for navigating these complex but entirely necessary areas of innovation.

This is also where the programmes of the health innovation networks, like DigitalHealth.London or Accelerating FemTech, can help by introducing you to the range of experts needed, whether regulator, governance, or other specialism. The good news is that the UK innovation sector is full of partners ready and willing to help turn good ideas into real-world impact. From world-leading professional institutions with a tradition of progressive thinking such as RCOG through to a variety of new funding opportunities becoming available through UK Research and Innovation and other sources, the sector is primed for global success.

Dr Ranee Thakar, RCOG Chair, closed the IWD conference by urging delegates to “harness the potential” of innovation. I feel confident that through the Health Innovation Networks nationally, and the exciting programmes of innovator support we have planned locally like Accelerating FemTech and the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator, we can use partnerships to harness innovation to improve health and care.

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The importance of evidence-based data in supporting services for wound care and the potential for Innovation.

The DigitalHealth.London Accelerator and Health Innovation Network South London held a roundtable discussion on the current challenges facing wound care services. Our Senior Project Manager for Innovation Karla Richards shares her thoughts and reflections from this roundtable and how data and innovation can lead the way in transforming wound care services.

In December 2023 a group of professionals including tissue viability nurses and clinical nurse specialists, consultants in vascular surgery and plastic surgery, podiatrists, representatives from the health tech industry, and other professionals came together to discuss the challenges they face in providing wound care.

Participants highlighted multiple significant factors in the growing burden of wound management including unnecessary and unwarranted variation in the delivery of services, poor documentation, inconsistent information, lack of clear diagnosis, differences in evidence-based clinical practice and lack of continuity of care. People working within systems worry that the current ways of working are disjointed, and there is often a lack of communication across pathways, meaning clinicians may miss valuable information about their patients. In addition to the challenges and potential improvement opportunities in wound care, several key points were discussed, including using data to demonstrate demand and improve business cases for services and dressing budgets, improving communications about patient needs across services, and opportunities for new technology. A common thread across all these areas was data, or a lack thereof, and the ability to effectively demonstrate need.

The need for data sharing across systems is vital to transforming wound care. Data provides clinicians with information about the patient’s journey. This can be previous medical history, referrals, types of wounds and treatments, clinical concerns, and patient progress. Decisions driven by this data can be used as a guide for clinicians to provide accurate, solution-based care focussed on the needs of each patient. However, with clinicians operating on separate systems it can be challenging to collect and share information as a patient moves across care settings.

One key point made in the discussion is that there are no metrics for counting the actual number of patients receiving wound care in a particular geographical area or ICS. Anecdotally, there is huge unmet need for high quality wound care, but without standardised reporting, it is difficult to gather data for business cases or to justify increased spending on care.  One clinician explained that when looking at amputations, it is impossible to identify how many patients were also diabetic as this information is not captured on admission as standard. Coding is erratic and does not always translate from primary to community and secondary care. There is also no standardised way of capturing physical information about a wound. Some teams still use a tape measure to document wound size, with others taking photographs and often it is impossible to track the full history of a wound from first origins to current status, even in cases leading to amputation.

“It is clear from this discussion that there are passionate, talented and committed people working in wound care but they have to fight against the system to deliver high quality care to their patients. I hope this discussion can be a mini catalyst to bringing services and people together to improve wound care for everyone.”Mr. Saahil Mehta MD FRCS (Plast), Founder, Plexaa

Clinicians are missing crucial data on dressings too. There is a wide range of dressing types available, with a wide range of costs, from simple bandages to specialist materials which are indicated for particular types of wounds. Some teams are reluctant to use the most expensive dressings, whilst others may use them more frequently than is clinically required. Without a standard way to track dressing selection and use in relation to healing progress, there is no evidence to justify spending on these consumables and to support business cases.  Currently some providers of dressings can provide platforms that show quantity and type of dressing at a team level, but this data is rarely recorded and linked to outcomes for individual patients. The gold standard would include tracking patient progress from first engagement with health care services thorough treatments, dressings used, and outcomes all with standard coding in order to demonstrate how many people are getting evidence-based care.

One participant in the discussion, from an independent social enterprise running a wound care clinic, shared how they collect data on their own system. As a social enterprise, they are a smaller organisation and able to control their own record keeping very closely, and they are also held to a very high standard by their commissioners. They take pride in their systems creating a “story” about each patient which ultimately shapes the care they receive, and whilst being cared for by them this works well. However, this data remains in their system if the patient changes to another provider, as the digital record doesn’t follow patients from independent providers to the NHS. Conversely, the clinic doesn’t have access to the full NHS record on their patients and may not be able to see their full referral history. This highlights the need for patients to own their own data, whatever provider they use.

The Roundtable participants also expressed concerns around relationships and staffing. Changes to immigration rules have seen a drop in the number of EU professionals working in the NHS, and one team mentioned that they have listed jobs and had no one apply. Covid-19 has also affected staffing and it has affected patients, who seem to be presenting much later than previously or calling about their concerns rather than going for face-to-face appointments. The specialist teams report that when they are finally seeing patients in clinic, many of them have a much higher level of wound acuity than would have been seen in initial appointments in the past.

So what are the solutions to these issues? The overarching priority for the professionals was improved data sharing and consistency in recording care and outcomes. New technology was also discussed – but as a tool to facilitate the gold standard of care and not just a “shiny new thing” to distract.

Two health tech innovators were in the room - with their wound care product Minuteful for Wound and a consultant in plastic surgery from Plexaa. These two innovations address wound care from opposite ends of the problem; Plexaa is a smart wearable which preconditions the skin pre-operatively to improve blood supply to the skin. This has been shown to prevent wound healing complications following surgery in clinical trials. Minuteful for Wound allows for better, more accurate decision making and wound care management with consistent documentation through 3D scanning and colour imaging. This medical device uses a smartphone to track wounds over time, identify tissue types, and to provide recommendations on dressings and treatment. The data for each patient can sit within the app and be transferred across providers and along the patient care pathway.

“Innovation is the idea, clinicians, patients, carers, and the voluntary sector coming together to think creatively about how wound services can be improved and sustainable. Our aim as industry partners is for our technology to provide the platform to underpin this change."Thariea Whisker, Director of Minuteful for Wound Services U.K.,

The use of technology across multiple settings would mean that professionals have access to the full history of a wound, can see previous treatment plans, and get AI-generated decision support for care. Supporting the use of these types of technology to become part of the existing pathways of care would not only help clinicians, but patients could also see their own progress and begin to understand their own journey better. By empowering patients to participate in their own care, compliance to medication and treatments is improved. Engaged patients may also be interested in participating in peer support, which some of the clinicians agreed could be a valuable tool for patients on similar treatment journeys.

The key conclusions from this event were around the importance of the whole story of the patient’s wound moving with them across different care settings, and finding a clear, unified method to share data, coding and decision making. Technology does have a place in supporting care for patients in both the preparation of skin for surgery and with digital measurement standardising the tracking of wounds and their improvement, or the flagging of decline.  More work is needed to address the perception of innovation and how it can reinforce the sharing of good data-driven decision making and support the workforce to understand existing care pathways. However, effective change also requires personal connections, strong networks, standardisation, and enthusiasm for meaningful transformation.

Thank you to all those who took part in this roundtable, for your honest thoughts and experiences and to Sara Nelson, Programme Director, DigitalHealth.London, for chairing this discussion.

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Helping patients with long-term conditions access “cool” technology

Ruth Bradbury, Senior NHS Navigator at DigitalHealth.London, shares her reflections from a recent panel discussion at HETT about the possibilities for patient facing technology.

When I was asked to be part of this panel at HETT I was excited to be able to share the trends I am seeing through my work at DigitalHealth.London. I was fortunate to be joined by clinicians and leaders with years of experience in implementing patient facing technologies.  They have seen it all from the highs to the lows.

Our Chair, Rishi Das Gupta, CEO of the Health Innovation Network South London, brought his enthusiasm for the topic with an opening question around what we have seen that is ‘cool’?  Now, there are lots of ‘cool’ technologies at different stages in development – emerging proof of concepts or established players delivering systemic change, but what makes something cool?  Is it the super-duper AI behind the scenes, the ease and convenience for the user, or the clinical outcomes?

My fellow panellists talked about their work in renal transplant and maternity care and how they have worked with patients and clinicians to improve the clinical pathway for their patients through implementing technology.  They also referenced groundbreaking AI technologies that turn your smartphone into a medical device equipped to measure clinical vital signs. For me though, the ‘cool’ bit about patient facing technology is where it enables the patient to be involved in their care and in an empowered position to take control of their condition and their management.

A current trend that we are seeing at DigitalHealth.London is in Long Term Condition (LTC) management. Patients with LTCs are a high need population for health and care services.  With clinical services that are stretched, risk stratification of patient need becomes even more valuable to ensure patients get clinical input at the right time.

Some examples that I have seen through my work include innovations which allow patients can share photos and videos of themselves; these can support their clinician to better manage their condition through the image record alone or AI analytics which can track change and direct management. Patients who are able to log their daily routines and medication can provide more reliable information to their clinicians to support virtual management or more effective face-to-face appointments. And technologies that support the patient to take control and ownership of their LTC can demonstrate improved clinical outcomes, reductions in secondary care re-admission or reduction in outpatient follow up, and overall improved quality of life. I think those are the impacts that make patient facing technologies cool!

One of the discussion points focused on the role of patients and users in the development and implementation of technology. Sian Thomas, SRO for Digital Maternity Cymru, talked about how her work rolling out a digital maternity record involved collaboration with women and birthing partners. Collaboration could involve co-design and co-production, but involvement of patients and users needs to consider the diversity of the population so that health inequalities are recognised and targeted. For the supplier developing a patient facing technology, understanding health inequality issues and engaging with the right people can be challenging, but there are broad brush actions that can be taken. For example, is the tech accessible in different languages or via mobile and web apps? Is the user interface and experience simple enough to manage differing levels of digital literacy? Beyond this, suppliers and health and care teams have a role to dig deeper into the specific needs of the target population so that implementation does not leave people behind.

So, we know there are many 'cool' patient facing technologies out there, with new ideas and products ready to be launched to the health and care system.  The un-cool part is how to get these ideas and products into the hands of the patients and clinicians; the challenge of navigating the system, finding the champion and ultimately the money.  At DigitalHealth.London we make this un-cool part part of our everyday mission. We work with innovators to help them understand where they should be focusing, where the need is, and who they should be talking to.  And not forgetting supporting innovators to build the evidence base to demonstrate the value of their ‘cool’ innovation.  For me, working with digital health innovators and clinicians to ultimately get technology into the hands of the patient is what makes it all possible.

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Are virtual wards sustainable?

With the current pressures on the NHS, helping staff to manage the unprecedented demand they are facing is a top priority. One exciting development gaining traction is Virtual Wards (VWs), which could help to maximise resource usage while improving patient experience. Here Amanda Begley, Director of Digital Transformation at the Health Innovation Network, describes how a recent event showcased to her how VWs offer a safe and well received alternative to traditional inpatient care, potentially relieving some of the pressures on our healthcare system.

VWs are a new model of care which is still under design and testing, so the evidence is not yet robust enough to support a traditional business case. In addition, ring-fenced national funding for virtual wards is coming to end, and so ICBs need to decide whether and, if so, how to continue funding them. In this context, the question arises: how do we build a business case and ensure sustainability for VWs?

To answer this question, the Health Innovation Network South London and NHS England London brought together key financial, clinical and operational stakeholders from across the capital along with national representatives to seek a consensus around the benefits of VWs that could best drive business cases. The goal was simple: to reach a consensus on why VWs matter and how that can drive investment decisions.

The event buzzed with energy, and discussions were so engaging that attendees willingly stayed beyond our planned 5:30pm close to keep the discussion going. I was struck by the enthusiasm for doing the right thing for patients, thinking through how we enable people to be cared for in the place of their choosing. The insights from the session will be invaluable in guiding systems deciding where to prioritise investment.

Some key system and financial benefits highlighted at the event were:

  1. Reducing admissions and re-admissions: Implementing VWs can help minimise avoidable non-elective admissions and re-admissions, leading to better patient experience, outcomes and use of resources. This shift also frees up physical beds for unavoidable non-elective and planned elective care.
  2. Decreasing Emergency Department wait times and improving flow: VWs can play a crucial role in reducing ambulance handover times, decreasing ED waiting times, and streamlining the "decision to admit" process. They allow for patients to be discharged from the ED to a VW and earlier discharges from inpatient beds, ensuring smoother patient flow through the hospital.
  3. Making the most of limited resources: VWs have the potential to optimise resources by reducing the cost per patient stay compared to inpatient beds. They also allow for a more efficient use of the workforce, thanks to the ability to safely deliver care at a lower staff-to-bed ratio. This is particularly so for tech-enabled virtual wards.

In a world where demographic changes mean pressure on services is only increasing, the VWs event was about finding innovative solutions, by creating an atmosphere of collaboration, meaningful conversations, and shared purpose. The journey ahead may still be under construction, but the destination promises a healthcare system that's even more patient-focused, sustainable and future-proofed.

Our recent virtual wards event also included reflections on patient experiences of virtual care. Click here to read our summary blog focused on patient experience.

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Supportive, spiritual or secluded – what is the actual experience of receiving virtual care?

Imagine being unwell and having the comfort of your own home as your healthcare setting—an idea that is becoming a reality with the concept of virtual wards. NHS England London Region and the Health Innovation Network South London (HIN) recently held a patient and people involvement group to delve into the experiences of individuals who have been a part of this innovative healthcare approach. Here Amanda Begley, Director of Digital Transformation, and Joe Barker, project manager in digital transformation at the HIN describe the benefits, challenges and improvements highlighted by patients and carers.

Patients’ views and experiences are central to any new models of care, and so we were keen to hear how it feels being cared for on a virtual ward, and to share these insights with those leading the planning and operational delivery of virtual wards.

During the discussion patients and carers highlighted a range of benefits they had experienced by being able to be stay in a home environment. Three key themes that came up in the discussions were around:

  1. Emotional wellbeing: One of the most heartening takeaways from the discussion was the profound impact of emotional support. Participants emphasised that having loved ones around during their illness made them more determined to heal. As one patient aptly put it, "It's like you want to give up more when you're in a hospital bed." The familiar surroundings of one's own home, with the comfort of your own bed and the freedom to watch your favourite TV shows, contributed significantly to emotional well-being.
  2. Self-perception and quality of life: One carer highlighted how being in a familiar environment helped their loved one feel less like a "very ill" person. It allowed them to maintain a sense of normalcy in their life during their illness, which positively influenced their self-perception and overall quality of life.
  3. Praying and spiritual support: Another important benefit was the importance of spiritual support. One person spoke about how being at home allowed them to receive visits from people who could pray for them, and they could continue openly practicing their faith, like reading the Bible, which isn't always possible in a hospital setting.
"Having [friends and family] around you makes you want to recover more quickly. It's like you want to give up more when you're in a hospital bed."Participant

However, it was also clear that peoples’ individual circumstances meant that virtual care presented challenges. The three main challenges highlighted were:

  1. Isolation and mental health: Some people expressed concerns about isolation when recovering at home. They recognised the potential impact on mental health, as being alone for extended periods during illness can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
  2. Carer commitments: Carers in the group shared their experiences, revealing how work commitments sometimes limited their ability to provide continuous care. This issue highlights the importance of integration with social and domiciliary care.
  3. Suitability and accessibility assessments: Accessibility concerns were raised as well, particularly for individuals living in multi-storey buildings with access challenges. The need for proper suitability assessments and emergency response planning was raised.
"If you're at home by yourself, that can be very isolating and could have an impact on your mental health."Participant

Practically there were some suggestions for improvements that resonated with the group as a way to ensure the model is as effective as possible:

  1. Patient choice: Participants stressed the importance of including patients in the decision-making process, particularly the decision to admit and discharge. They emphasised that patient views should be considered during multidisciplinary team (MDT) discussions. One specific issue that was raised was around the number of staff that would be visiting the patient’s home.
  2. Service branding and communication: Some patients found the term "virtual" off-putting, associating it with technology and not seeing anyone in person. They suggested a shift in branding, proposing that the term "NHS Care at Home" better reflects the essence of the service.
  3. Time to connect: Patients valued the personal connection with healthcare staff, continuity of care givers and highlighted the need for staff to have time for meaningful interactions. This human touch was felt to be particularly important for older individuals.
“If [the staff] don’t have time to interact, you don’t get that connection, and older people particularly like that connection, they like that same face.”Participant

In conclusion, our patient focus group shed light on the nuanced experiences of those involved in virtual wards. While the benefits are significant, addressing challenges and incorporating patient and carer views can further enhance the effectiveness of this evolving healthcare model. By continuously improving and adapting, we can ensure that virtual wards provide the best possible care while supporting compassionate and meaningful relationships.

The discussions and ideas from this focus group will contribute to the development of virtual wards in the London region, improving them and making them sustainable.

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Meet the innovator: Zoe Wright

In this edition, we catch up with Zoe Wright, Founder and CEO of The Real Birth Company, a service and training programme that supports pregnant women and people who access all maternity services and the midwives, doulas and antenatal teachers who support them.

Current job role:

Founder and CEO

Name of innovation:

The Real Birth Digital Workshop

Tell us about your innovation in a sentence.

The Real Birth Digital Workshop™ is an award winning, interactive, user friendly, animated, and easily accessible tool, providing mothers-to-be, many from underrepresented groups, with the essential support that they may not otherwise receive.

The Real Birth Company won the award for Innovation in Helping Address Health Inequalities at the Innovate Awards 2023.

What was the ‘lightbulb’ moment?

Being a community midwife I often found it hard to have in-depth conversations about birth physiology in appointments, as they were just not long enough. Even with an hour for birth planning, there is so much information to share to give time for true informed choice to take place. This was even harder with women whose first language was not English. I often felt like I was failing. Even with all the extra hours and time taken to try and create resources that I could share, I just kept thinking that there had to be a more proactive way of supporting people.

What three pieces of advice would you give budding innovators?

There is a quote that I have stuck on my wardrobe door since I made the decision to turn years of ideas into action. This quote was photocopied for me by a person who also started her own business and has grown it into a wonderful charity that supports so many. ‘Many of life's failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.’ There are weeks when I never seem to seem stop walking uphill and get no closer to the top, but then something happens and the core of our work and its purpose make the distance worth it!

Three things:

  • Don’t give up
  • There is always something to learn even if it's not clear in the beginning
  • Be adaptable. Even though the idea is great, it may not work! Learning how to be adaptable, open to ideas and new findings is essential!

What’s been your toughest obstacle?

Learning how to become a businessperson. In our journey so far, I have met lots of innovators and they are all so passionate, it's infectious! Most of us know our industry really well, but turning that into a business and running one, for me has been a huge learning curve. I have had to learn a whole set of new skills and am learning every day, which is very similar to midwifery as there is always something to learn there too!

What’s been your innovator journey highlight?

I think that this is really hard to answer. I’ve had so many, for example, the first time we went live in a hospital when the midwives were actually using it and most importantly liking it. Then there was the day I found out I had made the NIA interview list! Becoming a fellow on the NHS Innovation Accelerator programme is very high up on the list!

If I had to pick a moment (maybe two!), it would be the first time we pulled post-birth data from people using our innovation. The comments had me in tears! Knowing that people using us were feeling more confident about their birth choices and reading that they felt it had helped their birth experience - you can’t get any better than that. The second was about four months ago: I was walking to the office and three of our employees were walking up the stairs. They didn’t know each other before they worked for us. They met, laughed and chatted about the work they were going to be doing that day, and their work is what makes us work. That was a real highlight to see.

The digital programme has reached over 11,000 women, 10.8% of those being from ethnic minorities and 4.5% under 16 years of age. After completing the programme, 66.1% of women reported they had a vaginal birth versus NHS average of 50%. Meanwhile, 24% of women used water for birth versus the 5% NHS average, and only 15% of women used pethidine as analgesia versus 25% NHS average.

What is the best part of your job now?

Besides working with some amazing people who are so passionate about our organisation, it’s working out how to make it better. Better for people accessing it and a better resource that midwives want to share to support midwifery practice and informed choices. To do this we hold a lot of Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement activities. I feel really passionate about progression and working out how to engage more people to support their informed choices and decision-making in childbirth.

If you were in charge of the NHS and care system, what’s the one thing you’d do to speed up health innovation?

There are lots of great innovations to support the NHS, but it can be very slow for adoption to happen. For good reason too, especially to measure if they are fit for purpose. But there are some things that would be helpful. For example - to gain an understanding of all the different accreditations and certifications innovations have achieved to be where they are now, a more standardised approach would support innovation. One of the slowest factors is people not really understanding what they all mean or what innovators have had to do to achieve them.

A typical day for you would include…

Getting up, and having at least two cups of tea to start the day! Checking my emails and organising them into urgent for me, urgent for someone else and non-urgent.

Asking for a report on usage across the UK and assessing if there are any issues to be aware of.

At the same time, I have a quick catch up with our Chief Operations Officer who fires at me all the things going on that day, and if there is something foreseen that I may need to be involved in.

I’ll then pop my head around the door of the tech team, see if they are all okay.

I quite like going to see the graphic designer next and seeing where we are up to with project work, for example the ‘Meet your baby’s care team’ animated video in our SBRI Healthcare funded module of preterm birth.

Then I’ll have two or three meetings with ICBs, Heads of Midwifery, Digital Midwifery leads or other stakeholders.

Next some dedicated time set aside for report writing or future planning, often looking at what we need to do next how that fits into our future workstream or scope, then measuring it against the needs from our Patient and Public Engagement activities and National agendas. In-between that I may have a call or ten with one of my four children, normally about something they can solve but won’t! Luckily the dogs don’t have phones...

You can find The Real Birth Company on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Accelerating FemTech: Women’s pain and pelvic health tech

The first webinar in the Accelerating FemTech: Inspire series was hosted by South West Academic Health Science Network (SWAHSN) and was on the topic of women’s pain and pelvic health tech.

The webinar was led by Dr Kelly Pickard-Smith who delivers the South West AHSN Programme for Femtech, research and evaluation. Kelly introduced the webinar and passed on to Natasha Curran, Medical Director at the Health Innovation Network and co-lead of the Implementation and Involvement team of the Applied Research Collaboration South London.

Natasha spoke about the Accelerating FemTech initiative before speaking from her experience as a Consultant in Pain Medicine at University College London Hospitals and an Expert Adviser to NICE and journals such as BMJ Open. Natasha shared that 40 per cent of women in the UK experience pain and up to 25 per cent of female population have pelvic pain.

Dr Amy Bonsall is a Gender Fellow at Royal Holloway University and joined the webinar panel to talk about her experience of living with endometriosis. Amy shared her experience of living with pain throughout her young-adult life and her difficulties in accessing care, with many healthcare professionals dismissing her symptoms. She also discussed the challenges that FemTech innovators faces and the importance of using technology to give power back to women.

Dr Naomi Tyrell and Isabelle Fielding spoke about evaluation, impact and real-world validation in developing FemTech.

Naomi is the Founder and Managing Director of Research Your Way and Isabelle is an accredited coach, trainer, psychologist and business owner. They gave an overview of the questions FemTech innovators should ask when evaluating impact, the theory of change process and systematic data analysis.

Isabelle described how they used these methods in evaluating the Balance App – a perimenopause and menopause tracking and information app. This evaluation looked at introducing the app into clinical care pathways, exploring feasibility and practicalities of using the balance app in real-world settings and understanding the wider context of potential app users and the challenges they face in managing their symptoms and accessing good quality care.

If you found these clips interesting, be sure to sign up to attend upcoming Accelerating FemTech webinar on how FemTech can help reduce inequalities in maternity care. You can also express an interested in attending our in-person Accelerating FemTech events happening in Manchester, London and East Midlands.

Applications are also open to Accelerating FemTech: Accelerate, a 10-week support programme is for small / medium-sized companies (SMEs) from across the UK, that have early-stage innovations addressing current challenges in women’s health.

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Visit the Accelerating FemTech Webpage

Accelerating FemTech: Health equity by design

The second webinar in the Accelerating FemTech: Inspire series was hosted by Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network (KSS AHSN) and was on the topic of using a gender equity lens to innovate in women’s mental health and menopause.

Following an introduction to the Accelerating FemTech programme, Dr Maryann Ferreux, Medical Director for KSS AHSN and host of the webinar, began by introducing the KSS strategy for women’s health and their vision to reduce health inequalities for women, by ensuring all women have access to the best quality health and care.

Maryann then introduced Dr Sam Fraser, Implementation Lead for Primary and Community Care for the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) for Kent, Surrey and Sussex. Sam introduced the biopsychosocial model of causality for mental illness and how this relates to the five stages of womanhood. She highlighted the importance of mental health interventions for every life stage and how co-design with diverse groups is vital.

Sylvia Stevenson the spoke about menopause and inspiring innovations to think about new products through diversity of thought. Sylvia is Head of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) Development at IC24. Sylvia set the scene by sharing several menopause statistics including:

  • There are 13 million peri or post menopausal in the UK
  • There are more than 30 recognised symptoms of menopause
  • Symptoms can last on average 4-8 years
  • 44% of women experienced 3 or more severe symptoms

She also highlighted the importance of looking at innovation in menopause with an intersectional lens, taking into account the current lack of representation and potential for algorithmic bias in AI solutions. She finished by highlighting the five menopause-related issues she thinks developers should consider and a call to action for innovators to focus on solutions in this space.

If you found these clips interesting, be sure to sign up to attend upcoming Accelerating FemTech webinar on how FemTech can help reduce inequalities in maternity care. You can also express an interested in attending our in-person Accelerating FemTech events happening in Manchester, London and East Midlands.

Applications are also open to Accelerating FemTech: Accelerate, a 10-week support programme is for small / medium-sized companies (SMEs) from across the UK, that have early-stage innovations addressing current challenges in women’s health.

Find out more

Find out more about Accelerating FemTech

Visit the Accelerating FemTech Webpage

Meet the innovator: Jonathan Knight

CEO and Co-founder of Tefogo, Jonathan Knight

In this edition, we catch up with Jonathan Knight, CEO and Co-founder of Tefogo. His innovation, Compassly, allows comprehensive clinical competencies to be easily managed with the simplicity of an app.

Current job role:

CEO & Co-founder at Tefogo

Name of innovation:


Tell us about your innovation in a sentence.

Compassly is an incredibly easy-to-use app for assessing the skills of clinical staff and assuring healthcare teams have the right skills to care for patients while motivating ongoing professional development - all digitally signed off and portable across organisations.

What was the ‘lightbulb’ moment?

This was more a gentle dawning than an instant lightbulb. It came from repeatedly hearing nurses and healthcare leaders –  people I really respected –  saying that this was one of their biggest unsolved challenges, which got my attention. They were so frustrated, and almost couldn’t believe that it hadn’t been solved already.

But beyond that, I was inspired by the fact that this was an important problem to solve on many levels: staff professional development, patient safety and experience, and helping the workforce to be more productive. And then from the moment we started showing people the prototype designs, we got such a positive reaction: “this is exactly what we need”.

What three pieces of advice would you give budding innovators?

  • Always listen to your customers, but don’t be afraid to challenge and come with your own perspective too – you have a lot of knowledge to bring, and you have probably spent more time thinking about the problem you are solving than anyone else
  • Be relentless in improving your product. One day it will be used by hundreds of thousands of people, and every improvement will make their lives just that extra bit better
  • Always try to move at pace, but have patience with your customers and users in healthcare; they have far more to deal with than you will truly understand

What’s been your toughest obstacle?

It’s no secret that the NHS is under enormous pressure, and most people are just swamped. It’s very frustrating to have a great innovation that people really want to use, but there are everyday challenges preventing them having the time and space to make the improvements that could help them.

What’s been your innovator journey highlight?

It’s a cliché but the overall highlight remains getting to work with the clinical teams in the NHS. From the very start we designed Compassly alongside the nurses who would be using it, and even when it was a basic concept people freely gave up their time to help because they could see how it would help colleagues and patients. To then be able to come back to them further down the line with a polished solution that they can use is truly satisfying.

But if I were to pick one specifically, it was winning the tender to use Compassly to digitise the UK Oncology Nursing Society’s chemotherapy (SACT) competency passport. It’s an organisation that I had admired from afar, and to be chosen to work with them felt like a huge validation of what we’re building. That project will soon bring Compassly to around 10,000 oncology nurses across the UK helping to treat cancer patients, and the whole team is massively motivated by supporting them.

What is the best part of your job now?

At heart I’m a product person. So while I enjoy pretty much all the different elements of my job, I think I will always be happiest coming up with innovative digital products that help solve important problems for people.

We showed Compassly to a senior NHS nurse for the first time a few weeks back, and he said “You’ve solved all the problems that I wanted to ask you about, and some that I hadn’t even thought of. It’s like you read our minds”. To know that we can help clinical staff that way is a tremendous feeling, and exactly why I love this job.

If you were in charge of the NHS and care system, what’s the one thing you’d do to speed up health innovation?

The problem isn’t innovation, as there’s no shortage of innovative products out there. Rather, it’s adoption, the fact that so few of them are being widely used because of how hard it is to do.

There has been a lot of effort more broadly in healthcare to give a template of how to do things (GIRFT, Model Hospital, What Good Looks Like etc), but far too little for adopting technology. I would create a repeatable but adaptable process, forms and funding for NHS organisations to adopt a wide range of innovative digital solutions.

A typical day for you would include…

It’s almost impossible to describe a typical day as they are so very varied. One thing that is consistent is that I’m lucky to get to start the day with my kids as I do school / nursery drop-off each morning. That means that, however busy my day is, I always know I’ll be able to dedicate time with them, and it’s a great way to start the day.

We have an international team so there’s already quite a lot to catch up on straight away, and I find it energising to get into what they’ve been working on. There are a few things I’ll try to do consistently everyday - look at ways to improve the product, think about what new knowledge and content we can produce and make sure I’ve kept on top of all emails and comms. And most days I’ll be doing some sort of demo or discussion of Compassly – there is just no substitute to getting to speak to users and customers.

Beyond that, it’s whatever challenge the day brings!

You can find Compassly on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Meet the innovator: James Aitman

In this edition, we catch up with James Aitman, CEO of JifJaff, an independent, intelligent automation consultancy that helps clients make the best use of their investment in automation.

Tell us about your innovation in a sentence:

JifJaff is a highly scalable (practice and PCN to ICS) tailored automated replication of both clinical and administrative workflows for primary care, delivered as a service.

What was the ‘lightbulb’ moment?

My light bulb moment was "on a basic level", having had a generic blood test that showed no issues. I rang my practice to find out my results, and in doing so, blocked other patients from calling and used an administrator's time to take a message. Then the practice had to allocate more time by booking a call to tell me there were no issues. In the call, I was also told a clinician had reviewed the results.

I put the phone down, looked at the report and thought we could make something to read the results and make a predefined (clinically-led) decision if a follow-up is required. If not, the system could automatically generate an SMS to let me know everything is fine and I don't need to call. We can free up clinical and administrative time and support improved patient care. That was the catalyst to review multiple clinical and administrative tasks that needed to be done in primary care and automate them as much as possible. It was a busy two years of research!

What three bits of advice would you give budding innovators?

1. Know your market

2. Take the time to understand the problem you are solving

3. Be patient and do things properly

What’s been your toughest obstacle?

Finding the people that need our products.

What’s been your innovator journey highlight?

Seeing our clients’ faces when they watch their mouse move around the screen, following clinically led rules to safely do the work for the team. They see how using our tailored automation products can improve patient care, free clinical time, lower cost and enable them to spend more time focusing on patients that require support rather than admin—reviewing blood tests, coding, filing, LTC, repeat prescriptions, patient registrations and more. This helps people to understand that the products don’t have to only be used at the practice level but can also easily be scaled to PCNs, Federations and ICSs.

Best part of your job now?

Meeting new people and designing new automation for healthcare.

If you were in charge of the NHS and care system, what’s the one thing you’d do to speed up health innovation?

Access to more funding!

A typical day for you would include…

Showing demonstrations and sitting with our innovation hub, having our products reviewed by practice owners, PCN directors, management at federations and strategic ICS leaders.

You can find JifJaff on Twitter and LinkedIn.

JifJaff are holding an invite-only private event in London on Thursday 27 April to build awareness around the automation work we do nationally in primary care. The event is for senior members of staff with responsibility in primary care (ideally ICS/ICB/Gov/NHS) to showcase the art of the possible with hyper automation at scale.

Places are limited to 15 people and going quickly, so if you or any of your networks would like to attend, please register here.

Simulation Labs: Creating a Space for Constructive Failure

We hear from Dr James Woollard about the importance of failure in innovation, and how HIN-funded simulation labs have helped create a space for this. James is Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, and Chief Clinical Information Officer for Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust and the National Specialty Adviser for Digital Mental Health at NHS England.

Adopting new ways of working after many years of practice can be daunting for a healthcare professional: “What if I/we get it wrong?”. Harm to a patient or patients, a complaint, an investigation, a referral to the professional regulator and personal harm immediately come to mind. This is compounded by resource pressures, whether financial, psychological or physical, which contribute to a sense of not being able to “afford” to get it wrong.

This is at odds with the almost universally-accepted principle that when it comes to innovation if you don’t ever get it wrong, you will never get it right. There are many accounts from successful innovators of the role of failure in their success – thinking slowly about failing quickly is their approach. Yet the NHS’s natural and understandable aversion to risk can, ironically, lead to further failure in lots of small ways and occasionally, tragically, in some very big ways.

If we have no dedicated space for failure, then every space becomes prone to failure.Dr James Woollard

Creating space and time for failing safely is critical to other high-performance, high-risk industries. If we have no dedicated space for failure, then every space becomes prone to failure. One way we can enable this is through simulation. Simulation spaces have been adopted in healthcare professional training, for example around high-risk situations like resuscitation. However, they have not yet been widely applied to the adoption of new digital health technologies (DHTs) in clinical practice. I recently heard an innovator aptly describe the NHS’s adoption methodology for DHTs as “spray and pray”.

With this in mind, Dr Victoria Betton, Dr Asanga Fernando and I applied for funding from the HIN to run a pilot of simulation labs to help mental health professionals to become more comfortable talking about digital health technologies with patients and carers.

The project brought together simulation experts, clinicians, technology owners and digital clinical leadership to produce a range of insights for different users. Clinicians found it helpful to play with and experience different approaches for talking about technology with patients. Furthermore, they also understood how to make the best use of technology as part of that process. Tablet computers, for example, are better for shared exploration of an app than the tiny screen of a smartphone, particularly with concerns about social distancing.

Clinicians wanted app owners to produce more standardised information about digital health technologies that could be used to support this process. They also wanted simulation or trial modes that would allow the clinician to explore an app without having to pretend to be a young person. The digital health technology developer involved in the lab has taken this learning on board and is working on supporting clinicians to have good conversation about their products. For the simulation team, we had further insight in how to organise and run simulation experiences around clinical scenarios involving DHTs.

As a digital clinical leader, concerned with clinical safety, usability, and evidence for effectiveness, I am keen to continue to develop and use simulation-based approaches at all stages of the innovation lifecycle. By doing this we can ensure we have DHTs that work for patients and clinicians, are safe and deliver good value. As a child psychiatrist, I see we have much to relearn about playfulness as a serious endeavour for learning. I hope we have the courage to “pause and play” through simulation rather than “spray and pray” when it comes to innovation and digital health technology adoption.

Find Our More

Find out more about the simulation lab pilot in the full evaluation report.

Read the Simulation Lab Report

Accelerating the remote monitoring market through partnership

The Health Innovation Network and NHS England (London Region) recently held a series of procurement roundtables focused on remote monitoring. In this blog HIN Chief Executive Rishi Das-Gupta and NHS England Regional Director of Digital Transformation Luke Readman discuss how developmental partnerships offer the chance to accelerate the development of this emerging technology.

“Trust is hard won and easily lost. Any effective partnership needs to have a high level of trust, this means that partners must be willing to work together to solve problems collaboratively, agreeing to work in the best interests of the partnership goals.”

Healthy relationships need clear boundaries and shared goals; during the pandemic we had to procure remote monitoring solutions at pace, leaving precious little time to build trust and align visions. In London, some remote monitoring suppliers overpromised and underdelivered on the quality and time taken to build and deliver solutions; whilst service expectations were not always realistic which also contributed to the breakdown of some relationships.

The Health Innovation Network and NHS England (London Region) recently held a series of procurement roundtables, bringing together experts from across industry alongside commissioner and provider organisations to explore a better way forward.

Given our collaborative approach, it seems fitting that the “red thread” running through these lively discussions was the importance of developmental partnerships and contractually enabled collaboration to achieve our collective goals.

Some of the tactics discussed in the roundtable report include:

Early market engagement: Co-defining problems with industry to lay the ground for partnership working through dialogue.

Developmental contracting: Building the intention to develop a solution into contracting processes.

Meeting future needs: Creating work packages which account for areas of uncertainty or with the flexibility to respond to “unknown unknowns”.

Testing via pilots and evaluation: Testing work packages through contracts which build lower-risk pilots into delivery before committing to larger costs.

Harnessing innovation: Contracting with multiple suppliers to harness innovation in all patient cohorts across a geography, including making use of Dynamic Purchasing Systems to allow new suppliers to join and local systems to articulate their own bespoke needs.

We are delighted to share the initial outputs of our roundtable events.

Further guidance and recommendations looking at how to procure and contract for partnerships can be found in our full report released in April 2023.

Understanding the Importance of Evaluation in Innovation

Chandra Banerjee recently joined the HIN for an eight-week placement as part of the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme. Here he writes about what he learnt from working on evaluation and shares advice for other graduates.

Before joining the HIN, I had worked at a tech start-up, where I briefly came across Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs). After joining the graduate scheme, I again briefly interacted with an AHSN during my operational placement working on technology implementation. As part of the scheme, I would be doing an eight-week placement at an organisation of my choosing, and due to my interest in innovation and transformation my Director of Strategy suggested the HIN. He put me in touch with Rishi, the HIN’s Chief Executive, to find out more.

Rishi painted a comprehensive picture of the role AHSNs play in fast-tracking the adoption of new technology, ways of working, and evaluation of programmes. I could see how valuable it was and wanted to be a part of it. From my experiences in implementing electronic patient record (EPR) systems, I knew the importance of robust evaluation of implementation processes and outcome KPIs in sharing good practice, disseminating new technology across the system and demonstrating value for money. Luckily, there was an opportunity to work on evaluation at the HIN.

I joined the DigitalHealth.London Team at the HIN in November 2022, working on evaluating the Evidence Generation Bootcamp. The bootcamp is designed to help digital health companies get the evidence they need to demonstrate their products are suited to the NHS. The Insight and Evaluation team and other academic collaborators provided guidance how to develop an evaluation proposal and study design through a hands-on approach. I was encouraged to interact with the companies, design the study tools, collect data, analyse it in line with the protocols and formulate my first evaluation piece.

I’m hugely passionate about the potential for evaluation to drive improvement, and this role allowed me to see first-hand how AHSNs like the HIN can help new products go from development through to implementation. I got a lot of support from colleagues to develop my skills and learned a huge amount which I’m looking forward to applying in my innovation journey within the NHS.

The AHSNs play a hugely important role but are often overlooked. I would thoroughly recommend a placement at an AHSN for anyone else on the management training scheme. They can help broaden your understanding of bringing products and services into the system, and evaluation is a skill which is relevant for almost any role. AHSNs are also uniquely placed to give you an understanding of the whole spectrum of the health and care system. They offer a chance to work on a wide range of clinical themes at the cutting edge of developments which offer the opportunity to massively improve outcomes for patients.

Find Out More

Find out more about the Graduate Management Training Scheme.

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Meet the innovator: Ross Harper

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In this edition, we catch up with Ross Harper, CEO of Limbic a cutting-edge software that drives information within psychological therapy to enhance mental healthcare in the UK.

Tell us about your innovation in a sentence:

Limbic is making the highest quality mental healthcare available to everyone, everywhere, regardless of socioeconomic factors. Our flagship product, Limbic Access, is the world's first AI mental health chatbot to have achieved Class IIa UK medical device status, and has helped over 130,000 NHS patients enter care, releasing over 30,000 clinical hours for NHS Talking Therapies services.

What was the ‘lightbulb’ moment?

The lightbulb moment was speaking to NHS clinicians. From this we learned some important lessons:

  1. many existing digital solutions have an issue around patient engagement and are under-utilised, and;
  2. many clinicians remain over-stretched and this is a crucial bottleneck in the care journey.

We realised we could use our AI not only to support patients but also clinicians. We found ways to make clinicians’ lives easier, freeing up their time and headspace to focus on other aspects of care, and supporting a truly personalised experience for patients, which was reflected in reduced wait times, improved recovery rates, and improved patient experience.

What three bits of advice would you give budding innovators?

1. Be problem focussed (innovators exist to solve the world’s biggest problems)

2. Be customer obsessed (they know more than you about their problems)

3. Be willing to let go of your initial hypotheses in response to new data

What’s been your toughest obstacle?

The toughest obstacle has been finding the right balance between innovating at pace while staying compliant. Mental healthcare technology is a relatively new field, and the regulatory landscape is constantly evolving. We have to meet rigorous standards of safety and efficacy to achieve our Class 2 medical device status and ensure our tools provide meaningful help for those who need it most. Although this process was difficult, we are proud of the outcome and confident that this will pave the way for future innovations in mental health technology using AI.

What’s been your innovator journey highlight?

My innovator journey highlight has been the overwhelmingly positive (anonymous) feedback we've received from patients using Limbic Access. To be able to provide relief and aid through AI-based solutions is incredibly rewarding and I'm overwhelmed by the difference we're making in people's lives. It’s the whole reason we started Limbic. To give you an example:

“I feel listened to, and like I was able to pinpoint certain areas that are affecting me.

It has taken me so long to ask for help and this first step has been easier than I thought. Thank you”

Best part of your job now?

Working on cutting edge AI with some of the world's foremost scientists in the field. It really does feel like we are at the beginning of something revolutionary in psychological therapy. Our research team has over 6,000 citations, and we are uniquely placed to combine AI and clinical psychology in a meaningful way. It's truly exciting work! Every day it feels like we are pushing the boundaries of mental healthcare, and it's great to be a part of such an important movement. Our team is passionate about making sure the highest quality care is accessible and affordable for everyone, and we are committed to creating solutions that will make this a reality. I’m genuinely excited to see the next breakthrough to come out of our lab! (Spoiler: it’s coming soon).

If you were in charge of the NHS and care system, what’s the one thing you’d do to speed up health innovation?

I would encourage and ultimately require interoperability between software providers. Mental healthcare, especially with AI technology, requires seamless integration between multiple providers and services. By requiring interoperability across software solutions, we could open up the pathway for innovation and collaboration and create a more efficient process. This would ultimately create opportunities for better patient outcomes and improved access to mental healthcare services.

A typical day for you would include…

The first thing I do each day is talk to Limbic - I need to be a power user of our own AI in order to have insight into our users. I then check in with my direct reports on our goals and objectives for the day, and review key metrics and analytics from our software products to get a sense of how we are performing relative to our goals. After this, I spend some time networking with industry professionals and partners and then I meet with our product team to review any new features or updates. Finally, I end the day by connecting with customers and clients in order to gain insights into how they are using our products and what improvements could be made.

You can find Limbic on Twitter and LinkedIn.

“Let’s embrace the complexity and apply what we know”

Head Shot of Amanda Begley

Digital health adoption is the focus of a newly published set of journal papers, jointly curated by the HIN’s executive director of digital transformation Amanda Begley. Here she reflects on the role of complexity and evidence on digital health adoption and the practical steps available.

With thanks to Frontiers, my co-editors Yiannis KyratsisHarry Scarbrough and Jean-Louis Denis and our 74 authors, we have just completed the editorial for our Research Topic Digital Health Adoption: Looking Beyond the Role of Technology | Frontiers Research Topic (

With 50,000 views already and the research topic being in the top three in the journal section, digital health adoption is clearly a hot topic. So, I thought it important to let you know about the open-access articles available to read.

Do read our short editorial – it provides brief summaries of all the articles and has embedded links to help you navigate to which of the 10 in the research topic are of most relevance to your work and thinking.

The editorial also describes four key non-technology related aspects of digital health adoption (co-creation, stakeholder management, ethical and social factors and the need for transparency), and five key levers to adoption:

  1. Understanding and responding to the needs and preferences of diverse individuals and communities
  2. Early and active stakeholder engagement in both design and technology use
  3. Building the capability and confidence of all actors to acknowledge and raise quality, privacy, security and safety concerns
  4. Adopting a holistic, rather than a piecemeal approach to build a supportive ecosystem
  5. Considering seriously the wider ethical implications.

I don’t want to repeat the content of the editorial here, so am instead sharing a couple of reflections:

  • Let’s embrace the complexity: We are increasingly realising the breadth of considerations and capabilities required to implement digital health technologies ethically, equitably, efficaciously, and economically. Although this may feel at times overwhelming, one of the many things I love about the health and care system is that it’s complex, requires careful thought and partnerships – change can be unpredictable, hard won, and takes time. With the growing research and practical insights accumulating, we are now better informed about how to enable technology adoption. Also, national policy work continues, like NHS England and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s (NICE) current work on a policy framework for defining the assurance pathway for digital health technologies and NICE’s Early Value Assessment
  • Let’s apply what we know. As an assistant and trainee clinical psychologist and when completing my PhD, reviewing the evidence-base was second nature to me. However, as I moved into commissioning and operational management, I got so busy fire-fighting that I forgot to draw on the evidence (like implementation-, complexity- and behavioural sciences) to inform my efforts to implement innovation and transform care. It’s only been in the last 15 years that I’ve drawn on the rigorously captured findings of the authors included in this series and utilised the vast knowledge that sits in our open access journals like Frontiers, BMJ Open and Implementation Science to name but a few. I know how hard it is to make time for this but doing so gives greater rigour to our efforts.

So digital transformation is not easy, quick or straightforward – but perhaps I’d be bored if it were… 

However, if we continue listening to our users and staff, openly sharing and actively learning from others, and working with colleagues across care settings and sectors then anything’s possible – including digital health adoption at scale for our patients, populations and staff.

Find out more

Speak to our team to understand how the HIN could support your organisation with digital transformation projects

Get in touch

Meet the innovator: Antoine Lever

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In this edition, we catch up with Antoine Lever, Co-founder and Commercial Director of babblevoice, an affordable, high quality and reliable phone system that is purpose-built for primary care providers.

Tell us about your innovation in a sentence:

Babblevoice is a cloud-hosted telephone system for primary care which supports practices, patients and staff across the UK.

What was the ‘lightbulb’ moment?

When we saw how surgeries were being treated by the telephone industry e.g. expensive equipment, functionality that added no value and especially long onerous contracts.

What three bits of advice would you give budding innovators?

  1. Don’t do this alone. Build a great team around you.
  2. Work as closely as possible with your customer and as soon as possible.
  3. Be relentless on quality. Reputation is everything.

What’s been your toughest obstacle?

Initially our biggest obstacle was persuading surgeries that voice over the Internet was reliable. Skype has done a lot of harm. Now our biggest obstacle is joining the relevant frameworks.

What’s been your innovator journey highlight?

My highlight was when I watched a surgery transform from a defensive blame culture into a patient centric culture thanks to babblevoice reporting and remote monitoring features.

Best part of your job now?

The best part of my job is watching practice managers’ faces as I explain how babblevoice can transform their day whilst supporting their staff.

If you were in charge of the NHS and care system, what’s the one thing you’d do to speed up health innovation?

I believe that if there was greater visibility of the problems faced each day by clinicians and administrators that innovators would step up to the challenge.

A typical day for you would include…

A typical day for me would include a briefing from the sales and marketing teams to see which events and opportunities are coming up. I would then meet with the operations team to let them know which surgeries are most likely to want babblevoice installed next month. I like to speak to at least one prospective surgery and one existing customer each day to learn more about their issues and experiences. The rest of my time is normally spent interviewing job applicants.

You can find babblevoice on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Primary Care Automation Grant Winners Announced

The winners of the London Digital First Primary Care Automation Grants have been announced today by the Health Innovation Network, working in partnership with NHS England. Grants of up to £65k will be awarded to projects across London to pilot automation solutions in primary care.

Automation refers to the design and implementation of technologies to provide services with minimal human involvement. Automating high-volume, repetitive, rule-based tasks can improve productivity, efficiency, reliability, compliance, speed and accuracy, colleague morale, and integration between people and process. This can help free up clinical and administrative staff so they can focus on securing the best possible outcomes for patients.

Over £600,000 has been allocated across eleven innovative primary care projects in London. Grant applications were assessed upon the scope, scale, impact, sustainability, and opportunities for spread and adoption of their projects. Pilots will be monitored against agreed metrics over the next 12 months, before being evaluated.

“Primary care faces an ever increasing workload. It is exciting to see these automation pilots provide hope for a range of solutions to tackle this workload with improved outcomes for both staff and patients. It might not be long before we look back and wonder how did we ever manage without some of these automation solutions” - Dr Shanker Vijay London Region GP Clinical Lead Digital First Programme, NHS England 

The grants programme provides a unique opportunity for us to pilot a variety of innovative automation solutions that can transform the way practices manage their workload. We hope that through this work patient care and staff morale will be improved by automated processes freeing up both clinical and administrative staff from some of the most time consuming and repetitive tasks they currently undertake." - Matt Nye, Director, London Digital First Programme

The grant winners are:

Dr Lucy Goodeve-Docker, Lambeth Digital Lead, Lambeth Healthcare Federation South East London

Lambeth Healthcare Federation are using Healthtech-1 automation technology to establish full automation of online registration into the clinical system (EMIS). Automating online patient registrations will allow patients to register within minutes, remove user data errors, reduce administrative data input time, allow accurate demographic collection, and ensure households are appropriately aligned to support safeguarding principles. Health-tech 1 is currently on the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme.


Lucy McLaughlin, Cancer Recovery Program Lead for North Central London (NCL), North Central London ICB - Performance & Transformation Directorate

NCL plan to improve patient appointment non-attendance for cervical screening in Islington by using a SPRYTs AI powered virtual receptionist named Asa, which interacts with patients via WhatsApp and email. Asa incorporates behavioural science approaches and linguistics to change behaviours. This allows Asa to adjust language and other messaging content and design for specific population segments, to optimise attendance at screening appointments.


Dr Nisha Patel, GP Partner and Trainer, Nightingale Practice in City and Hackney and City and Hackney GP Confederation Clinical Lead

The Nightingale Practice is working with Edenbridge (APEX), to automate workforce rota management, predict patient demand and workforce requirements, highlighting surplus and deficit staffing levels. By applying “rules” around capacity requirements and leave-booking, the administrative burden on practice staff will be reduced and access for patients to GP appointments improved.


Dr Sian Knight, Executive Partner, Modality Medical Services, Lewisham, SEL

Modality Medical Services are working with their in-house Robotic Process Automation Team to automate pathology results filing, specifically the automation of bowel cancer screening results. A bot will file 'normal' bowel cancer results, automatically send an SMS to patients with normal BCS results (with guidance of when to contact the GP) and communicate with patients that have been identified as not having participated in the BCS.


Dr Raza Toosy, lead GP, Sutton IT Solutions, and Jagdish Kumar, Head of New Business for Sutton PCNs

The Park Road Medical Centre are working with PatientChase to improve long term condition management and risk stratification in Sutton, Wallington, Cheam, and Carshalton. The automation of self-booking coupled with enhanced risk stratification will allow our centralised call and recall team to focus their efforts on patients with the highest clinical need to access various pro-active health services. A Customer Relationship Management system will be used to record insights through engagement with groups with health inequalities to better understand how best to reach and engage with them.


Dr Robbie Howell, Clinical IT Lead; and Anastasia Remos, Asthma WAF Project Lead for N1 PCN & Islington GP Federation, NCL

North 1 PCN & Islington GP Federation will be using GP Automate’s Robotic Process Automation functionality to automate processes for clinical and admin staff through 5 automated products: Lab Reports, New Patient Registration, Accurx Asthma Floreys, Accurx BP Floreys and Accurx Diabetes pre-appointment questionnaires. Through automating these manual and time-consuming tasks they intend to improve patient outcomes, workforce satisfaction and sustainability of general practice.


Dr Joanna Yong, GP Partner at St Andrews Medical Practice, Barnet PCN 2, NCL

Barnet PCN 2 is using Blue Prism’s (BP) cloud-based intelligent software to automate the clinical document workflow process. A bot will determine:

  • no action;
  • coding only,
  • identify specific documents which are coded and go to an allocated team member for a decision, and;
  • further action for low risk pathways such as smear results, appointment letters and follow-ups eg breast screening mammogram results and long term conditions. 

This bid complements existing locally run GP Assistant Programme and complements a second PCN2 cancer based clinical pathway automation. 


Dr Kiran Nakrani, NCL GP Website Clinical Lead, Barnet PCN 2, NCL

This automation project builds on the EMIS e-safety netting template which is already used across London and aims to track the outcome of important cancer documents via the Health information Exchange (HIE) Cerner portal for patients referred via the two week target pathway. A bot will mimic current process of:

  • identifying the clinical letter;
  • filtering it into the correct process for DNA vs Clinician Workflow;
  • identifying the outcome of the target referral as either DNA or patient contact made by secondary care;
  • advising the referring clinician on next steps.

Dr Rob Seal, GP at Lavender Hill Group Practice and joint Clinical Director at Battersea PCN; and Dr Soleman Begg, GP at St John’s Hill Surgery, Wandsworth PCN and Battersea PCN, SWL

Wandsworth PCN and Battersea PCN are working with JiffJaff and Automation Anywhere to automate high volume and repetitive tasks that can be clinically significant. These include:

  • clinical safety validation process for laboratory tests;
  • patient compliance with antipsychotic mediation;
  • division of clinical administrative workload;
  • reducing workload for pharmacy technicians.

Time saved from automating these processes will allow clinical staff members to spend more time on patient care and administrative staff to focus more on patients who require personalised engagement.


Dr Manotheethan Jegasothy, GP in Kingston and Richmond; and Dr Soleman Begg, GP at St John’s Hill Surgery, Chessington and Surbiton PCN

Chessington and Surbiton PCNs are working with JiffJaff and Automation Anywhere to automate the filing of ‘normal’ pathology results. Improved automated processes will ensure results are processed quicker and will benefit patients with real-time reporting of their results. Time saved through this automated process will result in clinicians and administrative staff having more time available for the practice and patients.


Dr Jwala Gupta, Clinical Director, Havering North PCN; Dr Gurmeet Singh, Clinical Director, Havering North PCN; Dr Pratheep Sunthara-Moorthy, Co-Founder of Care IQ

Havering North Network will be using the CareIQ proprietary automation engine to provide automated recall of patients with hypertension, diabetes and atrial fibrillation.

A central team will oversee the recall using staggered invites and providing a uniform process across the PCN. This will include CareIQ questionnaires, telephone, video, and face to face consultations.

In October 2022, 14 automations were launched across 11 pilots. The resulting pilot summary report was published in April 2023, and provides a wealth of recommendations, resources and learnings, assisting with future automation journeys. The full report can be read here.

Download the report

Read the full report to learn more about the benefits and obstacles of implementing these technologies in primary care settings.

Download the report

Access Denied: Addressing Inequalities in Digital Healthcare Tools

Clinician using technology

James Friend, Director of Digital Strategy at NHS England London region, writes about how the Access Denied report is shedding light on digital inequalities and what you can do to help.

The NHS has the potential to transform services for patients, from assessment to treatment, through digital technology. But it is crucial that this is done in a way which reduces rather than increases inequalities.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to a rapid increase in the use of digital technology in healthcare, whether this is the use of the NHS app for vaccine passports, the proliferation of online doctors’ consultations or the development of new tools for remote monitoring or self-management of conditions. This has many benefits. It can make services more flexible by enabling out-of-hours access, and digital services can be an improvement for people who are visually impaired or who have limited English skills.

But while for many people accessing services digitally is now the norm, this is not yet universal, and there is evidence of a link between digital exclusion and social disadvantage. People with protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 (age, disability, race) are less likely to have access to the internet, and the skills to use it (NHS Digital, 2019); and the impact of this has not yet been fully understood.

The role of digital is currently being considered by the newly-formed Integrated Care Boards, and this presents a unique opportunity to make sure that people without digital access are not left behind. That’s why the Health Innovation Network, the Academic Health Science Network for south London, hosted an important roundtable with experts on this topic which I chaired. The Access Denied report takes the key points from this discussion and explores the impact of digital inequalities in healthcare, making a series of recommendations for those seeking to adopt new technologies:

  • Work with digital innovations that meet the highest standards for accessibility and usability.

  • Test digital products and services thoroughly with a cross section of patients, providers and commissioners.

  • Use data to optimise delivery to improve outcomes and minimise exclusion over time.

  • Understand how people may need specific channels of delivery at different times or for different services.

  • Ensure you capture data so you can measure and compare outcomes and experience by channel.

  • Don’t plan care pathways for the majority – ensure it is optimised for those from minority backgrounds too.

  • Consider the support needed to move people to digital pathways.

  • Ensure equality impact assessments for transforming care pathways pay attention to digital exclusion as a potential risk of inequality.

We are also calling on designers, developers and the NHS to work together in two ways:

  • We need to develop frameworks, similar to those seen for information governance and clinical safety, which would set out guidance for mitigating against health inequalities that could become adopted and embedded by design.

  • Ethical considerations must be built into the clinical safety case of the tool and data used to inform or train algorithms must be thoroughly examined for bias.

You can find out more about digital inequalities, their impact and what you can do about them in the Access Denied report.

Find Out More

Find out more about digital health inequalities and how to avoid them.

Read the Access Denied Report

Meet the innovator: Louisa Stacey

Woman in front of wall

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Woman in front of wall

In this edition, we catch up with Louisa Stacey, Head of Strategy and Operations at Ufonia, an automated telephone-based system that allows routine clinical conversations to provide a standardised, high quality and efficient experience for patients.

Tell us about your innovation in a sentence: Dora is an automated telephone based system that can have routine clinical conversations with patients to provide a standardised, high quality and efficient patient experience.

What was the ‘lightbulb’ moment?

Being approached by Nick (CEO and Founder of Ufonia) to come and work for Ufonia. This gave me the confidence to believe that I could use all of the skills, abilities, and experience I had gained throughout my academic and NHS career, to make a bigger difference to more patients, clinicians, and the wider NHS.

What three bits of advice would you give budding innovators?

  1. Be brave and bold - believe in your vision and have the conviction to see it through; there will always be very difficult days
  2. Work collaboratively - there are so many talented people willing and able to assist you in achieving your vision
  3. Be empathetic - to develop a true and meaningful understanding of how your innovation will be used to make a difference

What’s been your toughest obstacle?

My toughest obstacle has been and still is…trying to reconcile striving to do the best with a ‘just do it’ mentality to ensure we are delivering value to patients, Trusts, and commissioners as readily as possible.

What’s been your innovator journey highlight?

The buzz I get when I work directly with clinical teams to understand their processes and constraints, followed by the collective realisation of the potential impact that Dora can bring in releasing clinicians’ valuable time to deliver services to the many thousands of patients on their waiting lists.

Best part of your job now?

Genuinely, the team I work with and the impact that this has on the pace, scale, and quality of work delivered. Everyone is phenomenally talented and driven to achieve the same goals which is fundamental in any team to support happiness, retention, and delivery. Check out the team here:

If you were in charge of the NHS and care system, what’s the one thing you’d do to speed up health innovation?

Reduce the duplication of effort and variety of systems and processes in place at each individual Trust to support the adoption of technology e.g. all Trusts accepting a set of nationally recognised assurance documents supporting information governance and security measures (DPIA, DTAC) without having a Trust-specific template.

A typical day for you would include…

My day is very varied and can start with meeting busy clinicians at 8am before their clinics begin or logging on early to check emails and slack messages to understand the priorities for the day. Then I will meet the Ufonia team for our virtual daily standup at 9am and find out what work everyone has on as well as a fun fact (e.g. What are you most looking forward to about Autumn?). Whilst we are recruiting more team members into operations, a lot of my day involves meeting with NHS staff to support the implementation of Dora to their services, and with commissioners to demonstrate return on investment. I particularly enjoy helping members of the Ufonia team to find and solve problems which drive improvements in our ways of working. When I have a quiet moment, the creativity flows and I can think of bigger picture strategic work which is a huge motivator for me.

You can find Ufonia on Twitter and LinkedIn.

New NHS Innovation Service streamlines national support for innovators

Doctor using tablet device

HIN Chief Executive Rishi Das-Gupta has hailed this week’s launch of the NHS Innovation Service as an important step forward in delivering life-changing innovation more quickly.

Coordinated by the NHS Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC), the service has been developed to support the UK’s Life Sciences Vision and accelerate the uptake of promising and impactful innovations into the NHS.

The NHS Innovation Service provides access to guidance and coordinated support from AHSNs and other organisations who have experience, knowledge, and expertise in developing and supporting the spread and adoption of healthcare innovations.

Innovators working with the service will be provided tailored guidance to help them complete processes which will help “unlock” adoption and spread within the NHS, including:

  • Regulations and service standards relevant to innovations
  • Demonstrating evidence of efficacy
  • NHS procurement and reimbursement processes

The service enables innovators to access support from expert organisations through a single coordinated platform. Organisations currently part of the NHS Innovation Service include:

  • The AHSN Network
  • Department for International Trade (DIT)
  • Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

Innovators create an account and complete an innovation record, which contains detailed information about their innovation. This enables an expert team to determine the requirements for the innovation to be adopted and put the innovator in touch with the right organisation at the right time. At each stage, organisations offering support have access to the innovation record, which will accelerate the process and avoid duplication – saving innovators having to reintroduce their concept and progress to each organisation.

The NHS Innovation Service is currently in public beta – a public testing phase. Users will be able to provide feedback on the service based on their experiences, creating opportunities for it to improve with further testing. The service replaces the HealthTech Connect platform.

Dr Rishi Das-Gupta, HIN Chief Executive said: “The NHS Innovation Service will further bolster the expert support already available to south London innovators through our own Innovation team and the DigitalHealth.London programme.

“I am particularly pleased that this new service will allow streamlined engagement with national bodies such as MHRA and NICE, who can often be crucial players in facilitating the spread and adoption of the most promising innovations. Reducing the complexity of interfacing with these bodies will undoubtedly mean patients benefit from innovations sooner.

“This work is another powerful demonstration of our sector’s commitment to collaboration as a driver of world-class health innovation in the UK.”

Award-winning Accelerator pays testament to six years of AHSN support for innovators

As DigitalHealth.London’s Accelerator programme is recognised for its role in supporting innovators, we reflect on the vital importance of AHSNs and their partners in helping the patients and the wider health and social care system benefit from commercial innovation.

On 7 July, DigitalHealth.London’s Accelerator programme was selected as winner of Accelerator of the Year award at the UKBAA Angel Investment Awards 2022. We are delighted that this award recognises the impact and importance of collaborative working by Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) to help innovators bring their digital health solutions to bear against some of the biggest challenges facing the NHS.

The DigitalHealth.London Accelerator is a highly competitive 12-month programme for digital health companies that have products or services with high potential to meet NHS and social care challenges. High potential SMEs undertaking the programme are given bespoke support and advice, expert-led workshops and events to broker meaningful connections between innovators and NHS organisations.

The programme is delivered by Health Innovation Network and UCLPartners, MedCity and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Charity (CW+), and has benefited from AHSN funding from NHS England, the Office of Life Sciences and Greater London Authority ERDF. The delivery of the Accelerator programme has connected industry, academia and the NHS to exchange ideas and collaborate to support innovation and the adoption of digital health.

“I am extremely proud to see the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator being recognised as pivotal programme, supporting high potential innovators to tackle health challenges within the complex NHS market. Being selected as winner of Accelerator of the Year award is a fantastic achievement that reflects the collaborative efforts of everyone involved across the London AHSNs and our partners.”Anna King, Commercial Director, Health Innovation Network

With the NHS under continued pressure following the Covid-19 pandemic, innovative solutions are already proving crucial for tackling issues such as the elective care backlog and widespread workforce challenges, with new approaches also helping to counteract existing health inequalities.

Beyond its positive impact on patients and NHS services, the Accelerator is also a significant catalyst for economic growth in the capital.

In the six years since its inception, the Accelerator has supported 143 digital health companies and 591 new contracts have been secured by these companies because of Accelerator support. The companies on the Accelerator have created a gross total of 1,498 new jobs during the programme and 45 new products have been launched to the NHS market.

Find out more

Get in touch to find out more about DigitalHealth.London and their Accelerator programme.

Contact us

Meet the innovator: Meera Radia

PocketEye: Connecting Eye Care

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PocketEye: Connecting Eye Care

In this edition, we catch up with Meera Radia, founder and CEO of PocketEye, a platform which improves access to eye care.

Tell us about your innovation in a sentence:

PocketEye is a cloud-based digital triage platform for eye care, enabling secure communication, seamless referrals and triage between primary and secondary eye care.

What was the ‘lightbulb’ moment?

As an ophthalmologist, I was working in eye casualty one day when there was an extremely long (~6 hour) wait for patients, and I realised the majority of these patients had been referred as same-day emergency referrals, which could have been prevented and remotely managed. Furthermore, my sister who is an optometrist would phone me regularly for general eye advice and teaching, as she felt there was a gap in her knowledge, and also her colleagues' knowledge, in terms of when to refer and when to not refer. 

I scribbled down a list of ideas I had that could solve this problem, spoke to a lot of professionals affected by these healthcare delivery challenges, and eventually, PocketEye was born!

What three bits of advice would you give budding innovators?

  1. When you hear a ‘No,’ that does not mean it is the end of the road - Get creative and use it as a learning opportunity
  2. While researching your market it is important to take strong opinions with a pinch of salt as the more people you speak to, the more you will gain a ‘bigger picture’
  3. Use technology to your advantage, we almost have no excuse with so many resources (many are free!) at our fingertips!

What’s been your toughest obstacle?

I would say it has been navigating the highly variable NHS pathways that exist in eye care. No two CCGs/ICSs are the same and so understanding the nuances of each one we speak to has been challenging. Understanding funding in the NHS is also crucial, and takes time to grasp as a concept.

Furthermore, behaviour change is a big challenge, especially within NHS organisations. But overall, I believe that it is an exciting time to be in the NHS, as there is a nascent appetite and spirit for being more open to change and innovation.

What’s been your innovator journey highlight?

  • Being selected to take part in the Digital.Health.London Launchpad accelerator programme in 2022 – This was a very empowering moment as it proved to us that others believed in the problem we are trying to solve!
  • Engaging with the eye community, and learning a lot more about eye healthcare structure and services
  • Having 200+ optometrists sign up to use our service

What is the best part of your job now?

Using creativity to problem-solve, and best of all, understanding the impact and difference our innovation can have in the eye care landscape, including improving patient safety and the patient experience

If you were in charge of the NHS and care system, what’s the one thing you’d do to speed up health innovation?

I would push for a flat structure (non-hierarchical), and increase collaboration between allied healthcare professionals and managerial team members.

A typical day for you would include…

My days are varied, interesting, sometimes exhausting but always exciting!

I can either be found in a hospital examining, operating on, or thinking about eyes, or I’m in the office, meeting with the PocketEye team. When in the office, I will be juggling various arms of the business including business development, marketing and comms, compliance, and of course working on product with Ed, the CTO. This manifests itself in lots of emails, Twitter page posting, pitchdecks, meetings, and of course, ringfenced thinking time.

You can find PocketEye on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Interim Director of Digital Transformation appointed to HIN executive team

From July the Health Innovation Network will welcome Amanda Begley as the new Director of Digital Transformation on secondment from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (GSTT) for 12 months.

Amanda is currently Director of the Centre for Innovation, Transformation and Improvement (CITI) at GSTT and brings a wealth of experience in areas that are particularly relevant including leveraging the value of health data by co-developing the Health Data Research UK Hub for Cancer (DATA-CAN) and her work at NHS London and UCLPartners on innovation, as well as her operational roles including working at Kingston Hospital.

Dr Rishi Das-Gupta, Chief Executive at the HIN said: “We recognise that there is an increasing need to support digital transformation over south London and are well placed to support on this given our strong links with digital innovators through the DigitalHealth.London programme. Amanda will help us clarify this so we can fulfil our aim to make our region the leader for adopting digital innovations.” 

Dr Amanda Begley, Director of Digital Transformation said: “I am really excited  to join the team and work with colleagues across south London to plan how digital transformation can benefit , patients, staff and partners as we all recover from the after-effects of the pandemic.”

Meet the innovator: Nick Mayhew


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In this edition, we caught up with Nick Mayhew, Sales and Marketing Director at Bleepa; a revolutionary medical imaging communications platform.

Pictured above: Nick Mayhew

Tell us about your innovation in a sentence.

Bleepa is a revolutionary medical imaging communications platform, providing an easy-to-use, high-quality tool to enable remote and secure communications between frontline clinicians and teams.

What was the ‘lightbulb’ moment?

The initial lightbulb moment came from our CEO, Dr Tom Oakley. Just about every time I speak to a clinician, we receive another idea though. Their feedback is invaluable – I must have spoken to at least 200 clinicians since I joined and that’s a lot of ideas.  I really feel like we are representing them and I feel obligated to make Bleepa work and embed it in the NHS.  We passionately believe that Bleepa can empower every clinician working in a healthcare setting.  Given our heritage, we knew that we could create a mobile-based clinical-grade communication tool that provided diagnostic imaging, associated annotations and reports at a quality that would make a real difference to the day-to-day lives of clinicians in both primary and secondary care.

Since launching Bleepa it has been used to routinely seek second opinions, manage inpatient referrals, provide high-quality multi-disciplinary team meetings and manage COVID-19 care pathways, amongst others. It has been amazing to see the far-reaching impact to date and we look forward to growing this impact with as many hospitals and community diagnostic centres as possible.

What three bits of advice would you give budding innovators?

  1. The most important thing for any start-up or innovator is to really spend time talking to your potential customers to identify their needs and challenges.
  2. Understand customer pain points and ensure that your solution meets those needs, you need to be able to demonstrate and evidence as early as possible the positive outcomes and benefits of your innovation.
  3. Be driven, enthusiastic and very, very focused.

What’s been your toughest obstacle?

We’ve been very lucky in finding a forward-thinking trust that understood the benefits of collaboration. Finding an early adopter who supports and believes in your product and is willing to put that belief into practice within an often risk-averse healthcare environment is the biggest challenge for most tech companies and we were lucky. Through collaboration, you need to find ‘early adopter’ doctors willing to work with you to grow and develop your product and shout about your successes. We were very lucky to find an amazing champion in Georges Ng Man Kwong, Chief Clinical Information Officer and Respiratory Consultant, at Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust and his enthusiasm helped us engage with their clinical teams across the hospital to co-develop Bleepa in its early stages.

What’s been your innovator journey highlight?

There are so many passionate, inspiring people who work within healthcare, particularly the NHS. Working with customers and clinicians who are really progressive, want to break the mould and have a really strong vision of how digital innovation can improve the way they work and deliver real benefits to patients drives all our teams forward. Whenever we speak to frontline clinicians about Bleepa we get such great feedback recognising how it can help make their working life easier, save time on referrals and relieve many of their pain points.

Best part of your job now?

For my role leading the sales and marketing team, it has been great to reach the point of brand awareness where NHS organisations, commercial suppliers and key individuals are approaching us because they’ve heard about Bleepa and recognise how we can help their organisation to improve clinical communications. It is really rewarding to see that shift to predominantly inbound requests and enquiries.

If you were in charge of the NHS and care system, what’s the one thing you’d do to speed up health innovation?

As a software-as-a-service company, we are constantly battling against the lack of some of the simpler technical infrastructure that other businesses would take for granted – decent WiFi and mobile network coverage, users being able to use their own mobile device securely for work. Digital innovation would be much faster and easier to adopt if some of these basic technical requirements were already in place for frontline clinicians.

A typical day for you would include…

Lots of conversations with customers, our development and operations teams.

I am very lucky – we have a wonderful, talented and committed team at Bleepa. It’s a very vibrant environment with lots of very bright people, so it keeps me very much on my toes.  I’m involved in all sorts of projects: from scaling up our involvement in the community diagnostic centre programme in the UK to shipping out equipment for a tuberculosis screening programme in India with funding from Amazon Web Services.

Where can we find you?

Visit our website or follow us on Twitter @BleepaMe and LinkedIn.

New transatlantic partnership announced for companies working to improve digital health


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The DigitalHealth.London and Cedars-Sinai Accelerators, two of the world’s top Accelerator programmes, today announced their new partnership supporting the international adoption of some of the US and UK’s best health tech companies.

It means patients in both the UK and US should benefit quicker from health tech innovations. The partnership will also utilise the deep healthcare knowledge and networks held by both organisations, to support companies who have taken part in either of the Accelerator programmes, to navigate and gain traction in a new global market. The companies will be given the opportunity to learn from and support their global peers, hear from experts in the new market, showcase their products/services to key international stakeholders and attend webinars on the respective healthcare systems.

Jenny Thomas, Programme Director, DigitalHealth.London, said: “At DigitalHealth.London we are dedicated to supporting the growth and development of high potential digital health companies who are meeting the challenges facing health care systems today. The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator shares this goal, and it is our joint vision to work together to accelerate the adoption of the best healthcare solutions internationally.”

Anne Wellington, Managing Director, Cedars-Sinai Accelerator, said: The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator supports innovation that will improve healthcare, not only for our own patients and clinicians but by advancing technologies that benefit our global community. We are thrilled that this collaboration with DigitalHealth.London will foster support and adoption of the most transformative solutions from the US and UK!.”

Dr Tim Ferris, Director of Transformation at NHSE, said: “Some of the world’s most exciting digital health work is happening here in the UK. The NHS has a lot of knowledge to share, and there is also much we can learn from other countries. It is vital we use these connections to promote effective ways of improving patient care and work environments for busy NHS staff.”

DigitalHealth.London’s Accelerator aims to speed up the adoption of technology in London’s NHS, relieving high pressure on services and empowering patients to manage their health. It works with up to 20 SMEs over a 12-month period, giving bespoke support and advice, a programme of expert-led workshops and events and brokering meaningful connections between innovators and NHS organisations with specific challenges. The NHS delivered programme, funded in part by the European Regional Development Fund, has supported some of the biggest and most effective digital innovations now being used by the NHS in London. Companies including LIVI, Oxehealth, Patchwork Health, Echo, Sweatcoin, and Health Navigator have all been through the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme. To date, the Accelerator has supported 122 innovative digital health companies, with 591 additional contracts secured and 1498 jobs created by those companies during Accelerator support. £2.06 billion of investment has been raised by these companies to date and for every £1 spent on the programme through the AHSNs, it is estimated £12.70 is saved for the NHS*.

The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator is transforming healthcare quality, efficiency, and care delivery by helping entrepreneurs create, grow and scale their innovative technology products. This three-month program, based in Los Angeles, California, provides companies with $100,000 in funding, mentorship from more than 300 leading clinicians and executives, access to Cedars-Sinai, and exposure to a broad network of entrepreneurs and investors. Since 2015, the Accelerator has helped more than 60 companies transform healthcare delivery and patient care. Examples of companies supported by the Accelerator include WELL Health, Aiva Health, Health Note, Diligent Robotics and AppliedVR. UK-founded alumni of the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator include Lumeon, Lantum and Virti. Accelerator alumni have gone on to collectively raise more than $500M in investment and are in use at thousands of hospitals and clinics across the United States and around the world.

Further information

Find out more about DigitalHealth.London and the fantastic work that they do to support innovators.

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Meet the innovator: Grace Gimson


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In this edition, we caught up with Grace Gimson, Co-Founder and CEO at Holly Health; your personal health and motivation coach, in your pocket.

Pictured above: Grace Gimson

Tell us about your innovation in a sentence.

The Holly bird 🐦 becomes your personal health and motivation coach, in your pocket, providing you with the daily direction and support to feel psychologically and physically better!

What was the ‘lightbulb’ moment?

Experiencing my challenges with burnout, and struggling to keep on top of my physical and mental wellbeing through a busy career. I also saw the same thing happening to so many people around me. Luckily I found a way out, through being consistent and deliberate with daily habits like getting enough sleep, getting outside for walks, and taking time to give my brain space. Then I wanted to help others to find their way too.

What three bits of advice would you give budding innovators?

  1. Believe in yourself, everyone is making it up as they go along, it’s a tough journey but stick to your guns as your unique insights and experiences are what set you apart.
  2. Remember that you won’t be able to last the journey unless you take care of your own physical and mental health along the way. Set boundaries to avoid burnout.
  3. Take and seek help and support in the areas you’re less sure about. Even just one conversation with someone who’s been through it before can make all the difference.

What’s been your toughest obstacle?

In the early stages, with a tiny team, it’s a difficult balancing act. Some weeks I feel like I’m doing five different jobs, and I want to do them all well. But the reality is you have to prioritise, be realistic, and set really clear goals with yourself, being ruthless about things that don’t move you closer to them. I often still overfill my calendar and should say no to things more often.

What’s been your innovator journey highlight?

Hearing the stories of others finding their health and wellbeing path with the help of Holly Health. Especially receiving feedback that it’s changed people’s mindsets for good because I know personally that when you cross through that barrier, there’s no going back!

Best part of your job now?

I get to learn about psychological medicine every day. It’s so exciting combining psychological science with technology to innovate beyond what’s been possible before!

If you were in charge of the NHS and care system, what’s the one thing you’d do to speed up health innovation?

I’d use my influence to go to the school education system, to change up the curriculum. I believe the future survival and success of the NHS comes from encouraging preventive health approaches (for both physical and mental health) from the earliest point possible.

A typical day for you would include…

A bit of deeper or creative work first thing in the morning, when fresh. This could involve some product design planning, or company goal setting. Followed by lots of remote meetings, for example; a team check in, a podcast episode recording, a partnership chat with a healthcare provider, an investor conversation. Then a few hours of emails and admin. I end the working day by preparing for tomorrow!

Where can we find you?

Visit our website or follow us on LinkedIn.

DigitalHealth.London publishes “Driving digital: Insights and foresights from the health and care ecosystem”


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When DigitalHealth.London was created five years ago, the digital health landscape was a very different place, as were the challenges facing the NHS. To celebrate their fifth birthday, DigitalHealth.London started a five-week conversation with NHS and social care staff, industry, patients and academics. Today, DigitalHealth.London publishes “Driving digital: Insights and foresights from the health and care ecosystem”, a fascinating look at the sector’s learnings from the last five years and the opportunities for the next five years in digital health.

The free-to-access publication features exclusive quotes and/or videos from Sir David Sloman, NHS Regional Director for London, Matthew Gould, CEO of NHSX, Patrick Mitchell, Director of Innovation, Transformation and Digital at Health Education England, and Professor Trish Greenhalgh, Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford – plus many more NHS and social care staff, digital health companies, patients and academics.

Topics in the publication include NHS digital health adoption, tackling digital exclusion, the importance of co-design, challenges of health tech evaluation, AI for workforce support, growth of remote monitoring and international opportunities.

Jenny Thomas, Programme Director at DigitalHealth.London, said, “We are proud of what DigitalHealth.London has achieved over the last five years in supporting the growth of digital health innovation in London and of how much we have learnt. But we know that there is still more to be done. That is why we wanted to celebrate our 5th birthday by starting an open discussion with groups from across the healthcare sector. Thank you to everyone who took part in what was an enlightening conversation, and we hope that those reading these insights gain as much from it as we did.”

Dr Timothy Ferris, Director of Transformation at NHS England and Improvement, said, “DigitalHealth.London has brought together voices from across health and social care – staff, patients and service users, industry and academics – to reflect on learnings from the last five years and the future of healthcare. This publication provides invaluable insights for how we can work together towards the goal of improving people’s care. I would encourage leaders, clinicians and decision makers in health and care to read, share and take action.”

Sonia Patel, Chief Information Officer at NHSX, said, “The digital health landscape has changed dramatically over the last five years, and it is clear from the insights shared in DigitalHealth.London’s 5th birthday publication, that as a sector we’ve learnt an incredible amount. As a Londoner, I’m particularly pleased to see progress in tech and data to support a multicultural, diverse community. It is also apparent that, while we’ve still got a way to go, the future is bright for digital health in London and beyond. If you’re working in digital health, this is a must-read.”

Further information

Explore more by reading “Driving digital: Insights and foresights from the health and care ecosystem.”

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Meet the innovator: Max Kersting


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In this edition, we caught up with Max Kersting, Co-Founder and CEO at Regimen; a digital certified health program for erectile dysfunction.

Pictured above: Max Kersting

Tell us about your innovation in a sentence.

We’ve developed the world’s first CE-certified guided health program for erectile dysfunction (ED), effective for three out of four members within only 12 weeks.

What was the ‘lightbulb’ moment?

I’ve had erectile dysfunction in my early 20s. Pills, injections, even surgery did not work. With a few excellent urologists, we’ve created a strict program that helped me to overcome my issues – including pelvic floor and cardio exercise, lifestyle modifications, mindfulness, vacuum pump training, supplements, and pills. It worked!

With Regimen, we offer access to such a personalised holistic program to everyone who struggles with ED.

Together with healthcare professionals, we can not only help clients struggling with ED, but also identify those with elevated risk for cardiovascular disease or mental health issues, and prevent severe health events including heart attacks, strokes and depression.

What three bits of advice would you give budding innovators?

  1. Focus on your clients: it took us two years to build a program that was excellent in terms of efficacy AND retention. Nobody needs a program that theoretically works but that your clients don’t use.
  2. Use your first user cohorts as partners: understand their real needs and build for them.
  3. Understand your economic case, in the short, medium, and long term. There might be a direct-to-consumer market that helps you make revenue, quickly. But to work with healthcare organisations, you also have to understand the needs of doctors, and payers to be able to cater to them.

What’s been your toughest obstacle?

Convincing doctors to try something new, beyond the blue pills (although, every doctor who refers Regimen is raving about their client feedback). If you’d like to offer Regimen to your patients, please get in touch with our Director of Partnerships Giordano Blume, we are looking forward to hear from you.

What’s been your innovator journey highlight?

The emails from our clients. It is always a very happy moment to read how our work changes the lives and relationships of thousands of people around the world.

Best part of your job now?

Being able to inspire guys who lost hope to take care of their most intimate health. I really love the feedback of our clients.

If you were in charge of the NHS and care system, what’s the one thing you’d do to speed up health innovation?

Centralise and at the same time lower the barriers for reimbursement to make digital innovation accessible to those who also feel too ashamed to see their doctors.

A typical day for you would include…

Working with our amazing team on new features, understanding how we can grow faster, and learning from healthcare professionals and our users how to improve Regimen, in the long run.

Where can we find you?

Visit our website or follow us on Instagram or LinkedIn.

DigitalHealth.London Accelerator opens for applications

Call out to the next generation of digital innovation to transform health and care.

Digital products and services have provided vital innovation, support and capacity to the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic and will continue to do so as the healthcare system moves forward into the subsequent recovery phase of the Covid-19 response. DigitalHealth.London has opened applications to their flagship Accelerator programme for the next generation of digital health companies to transform health and care.

Now in its sixth consecutive year, the NHS delivered programme, funded in part by the European Regional Development Fund, has supported some of the biggest and most effective digital innovations now being used by the NHS in London. Companies including LIVI, Oxehealth, Patchwork Health, Echo, Sweatcoin, and Health Navigator  have all been through the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme. Many of the digital products and services who have provided vital innovation, support and capacity to the NHS during the response to Covid-19 have come through the Accelerator. From enabling remote GP appointments, to transforming NHS temporary staffing and patient facing self-management apps, the Accelerator has supported some of the best digital innovations now being widely used. The need for innovations to solve the problems which face the NHS as it continues to be under pressure and as it recovers from the pandemic, remains vital.

To date the Accelerator has supported 122 innovative digital health companies, with 411 additional contracts signed by those companies during Accelerator support. For every £1 spent on the programme it is estimated over £14 is saved for the NHS*. DigitalHealth.London is passionate about the importance of diversity and inclusion in the long-term success of innovation and transformation within the NHS. To date 15 per cent of the companies supported have been founded by women, 22 per cent have been owned by innovators who identify as Black, Asian or minority ethnic and 2 per cent by a person with a disability*. DigitalHeath.London continues to work to ensure the Accelerator programme is diverse and encourages innovators who identify as being from a minority group to apply to the programme.

Jenny Thomas, Programme Director, DigitalHealth.London Accelerator, said: “The last year and a half in the NHS has seen profound challenges but also incredible progress. NHS Staff and patients have been introduced to new ways of doing things through digital health, and technology has enabled many key services to continue during the Covid-19 pandemic. I am extremely proud of the companies and NHS organisations we have worked with and the role they have played during the pandemic and the vital roles I know they will continue to play as we start to look at supporting the NHS to recover. I am very excited to announce the opening of applications to be part of the next cohort of innovators on the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme – innovators who we will support in being part of this next, pivotal stage for our healthcare system.”

Dr Rishi Das-Gupta, Chief Executive, Health Innovation Network, said: “I am delighted that applications are open for the sixth cohort of the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator. Over the years we have seen so many success stories come out of the programme – innovations that are now making a significant positive impact on health outcomes and ongoing challenges like workforce pressures. The depth of support offered to innovators over a 12-month period is really impressive, providing bespoke assistance and advice through events such as expert-led workshops and facilitating meaningful connections between innovators and NHS organisations with specific challenges.

I look forward to contributing to the development of what I’m sure will be another outstanding cohort of innovators this year. I would urge anyone thinking of applying to join the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator 101 Webinar on Wednesday 4 August at 12:30pm and find out more about the programme and how it might benefit you.”

Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer for London, said: “DigitalHealth.London’s influential Accelerator programme is helping London establish its place as one of the most exciting digital health and care hubs in the world. I am delighted to continue to support the Accelerator as it opens for applications again and I’d urge any digital health innovator who has a product or service that could support the NHS in this challenging time to consider joining this programme.”

Tara Donnelly, Chief Digital Officer of NHSX, said: “The DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme is a key player in helping the NHS and social care to make the most of the opportunities digital technologies bring.

“This has never been more important as the NHS looks to recover from the pandemic and I look forward to seeing the next group of innovators bringing their solutions to London’s NHS.”

Phoebe Allen, Quality Improvement Manager, Planned Care, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Working on the ground in the NHS I have witnessed first-hand the rapid progress of digital technology within our healthcare system over the last year. Without some of these innovations the delivery of many services would have been nearly impossible and it is clear that digital technology has a huge role to play in the future of improving patient care and helping the NHS to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. The DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme helps connect innovators to NHS teams with an unmet need and provide them with the knowledge they need to truly understand the challenges face by the NHS, its staff and its patients.”

Dr Mridula Pore, CEO and Co-founder, Peppy, Accelerator programme 2020-21, said: “The DigitalHealth.London Accelerator has been instrumental in fostering the perfect environment for Peppy to grow in the NHS. The guidance we have been given, connections brokered with decision makers in NHS organisations and policy makers, and the support we have received from our NHS Navigator has all led to wonderful new opportunities and meaningful growth of our company. We are truly grateful for our Accelerator experience and would like to wish all companies applying good luck in what is a hugely competitive and valuable programme.”

Anas Nader, Co-Founder, Patchwork Health, Accelerator programme 2019-20, said: “We’re so proud of how widely our technology has already been embraced across the NHS and the impact we’re having on the lives of thousands of clinicians. We were delighted to join the 2019-20 cohort of DigitalHealth.London’s Accelerator, a brilliant programme speeding up adoption of digital health innovations in the NHS. The programme has provided us with opportunities to connect with industry experts as well as other healthtech innovators. I’d encourage companies like ours with good ideas and big ambitions to apply.”

DigitalHealth.London’s Accelerator aims to speed up the adoption of technology in London’s NHS, relieving high pressure on services and empowering patients to manage their health. The programme is for digital health companies with a product or service that has high potential to meet the challenges facing the NHS and social care today, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and as detailed in the NHS Long Term Plan. It works with up to 20 SMEs over a 12-month period, giving bespoke support and advice, a programme of expert-led workshops and events and brokering meaningful connections between innovators and NHS organisations with specific challenges. The companies that are successful in getting onto the Accelerator programme are chosen through a rigorous and highly competitive selection process, involving expert NHS and industry panel assessments, interviews and due diligence checks. Companies successful in gaining a place on the programme usually have a product or service that has already been piloted in the NHS and is ready to scale. Through-out the 12 months the programme focuses on engagement with different elements of the health and care system. Company suitability is assessed based both on product maturity (meaning products that are ready to be trialled or bought that have high potential to meet NHS challenges) and on the company’s capacity to benefit from the programme (meaning companies have enough time and staff to engage).

Join a discussion with the Programme Director, an NHS Navigator and some of the SMEs who have been supported by the programme on the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator 101 Webinar on Wednesday 4 August at 12:30pm.

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Sara Nelson named as new Deputy Chief Nursing Information Officer for NHSX

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DigitalHealth.London’s Sara Nelson, who leads the flagship Accelerator and Digital Pioneer Fellowship programmes, joins NHSX.

Sara Nelson has been announced as the new Deputy Chief Nursing Information Officer for NHSX.

Sara is a Registered General Nurse who has worked in the NHS for over 29 years. She has a wealth of experience in operational and digital nursing leadership having undertaken a number of roles including senior nurse for digital at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

More recently Sara has undertaken leadership roles at DigitalHealth.London as an NHS Navigator, Programme Director of the Accelerator and most recently as the Deputy Programme Director of DigitalHealth.London leading the Digital Pioneer Fellowship.

The Digital Pioneer Fellowship supports 37 frontline NHS staff delivering transformation projects through digital innovation. Under Sara’s leadership, both the Digital Pioneer Fellowship and the Accelerator programme, achieved an increase in applications. The Accelerator also experienced an increase in applications from digital innovators identifying as BAME and was recognised as one of the top eight Accelerator programmes for women founders in Europe.

She has been widely recognised as a digital health leader speaking at conferences, writing thought leadership articles and above all building and supporting teams of NHS staff.

Sara has achieved her Post Graduate Diploma in Digital Healthcare Leadership through the NHS Digital Academy and is currently undertaking her MSc dissertation to identify the key factors for a successful CNIO.

Dr Natasha Phillips, Chief Nursing Information Officer at NHSX, said:

“Sara’s appointment by NHSX is another important milestone in the establishment of a strong nursing and midwifery digital leadership community – one which is vital to ensure a nursing and midwifery voice at all levels of digital transformation across the system. The breadth of experience and track record across digital innovation that Sara brings with her is outstanding and I am delighted to welcome her to the team”

“I feel privileged to take up this role working as part of NHSX with the CNIO Natasha Phillips and the CNO team to shape the future of nursing at this pivotal time.”Sara Nelson

Zoe Lelliott, Chief Executive at the Health Innovation Network, said:

“We’re delighted for Sara and know she’ll be brilliant in this well-deserved role.”

Sara Nelson, Deputy Chief Nursing Information Officer at NHSX, said:

“This new national Deputy CNIO role signifies the growing recognition of nursing and midwifery involvement in digital health. I feel privileged to take up this role working as part of NHSX with the CNIO Natasha Phillips and the CNO team to shape the future of nursing at this pivotal time.

“I am one of the many nurses and midwives who did not have computers or technology, as we now know it, when we started and I have seen real benefits to staff and patients, when technology is brought in correctly and is well designed with consideration of patients and staff. This has led me to move away from the traditional nursing leadership roles and towards increasing my understanding of technology and the commercial sectors – growing my knowledge of the barriers and opportunities we can elicit.

“I am looking forward to understanding how we can work together nationally, regionally and in our organisations to bring together that collective voice that listens and learns and is not afraid to speak up.”

Sara will take up her new role part time from 11 January and full time from March.

Find out more about the Accelerator programme

Click the button below to find out more about the Accelerator programme.

Accelerator webpage

Find out more about the Digital Pioneer Fellowship progamme

Click the button below to find out more about the Digital Pioneer Fellowship programme.

Digital Pioneer Fellowship webpage