By Tara Donnelly, chief executive, Health Innovation Network
Earlier this year, 150 leaders from across health and social care, research, government and industry came together to launch DigitalHealth.London; a virtual institute that builds on London’s world-class expertise in digital technology and healthcare. Driven by the desire to see London become the global capital of digital health, it aims to help more people gain value from digital healthcare – clinicians in the NHS, patients and Londoners – as well as increase employment in the digital health space.
The creation of DigitalHealth.London marks an exciting moment for the capital and Londoners. The ambition of the institute is no less than to bring the transformation that we have all seen in our daily lives through digital advances, into London’s NHS.
Londoners are among the most digitally and technology enabled citizens in the world. Over 73 per cent of them now own a smartphone with Internet access, which is enabling a level of connectivity to information and resources we could only have dreamed of a few years ago. For Londoners aged between 18-24 years this figure is an incredible 96 per cent.
The speed of adoption is also unprecedented, as Eric Topol highlights in his excellent book “The Patient will See you Now” it took 46 years for electricity to reach one quarter of Americans; smartphones reached this proportion within two years. However given this enormous revolution it is striking that last year only 2 per cent of NHS transactions were via smartphones. Research by London + Partners found that we have more tech developers in London than Silicon Valley, at 71,000, as well as some of the finest universities, hospitals, clinicians, researchers to work with them in partnership to make healthcare better.
A quote we are fond of at Digital Health.London is:
“The future is already here it’s just not very evenly distributed” – William Gibson
Put simply, our aim at Digital Health. London is to redistribute the future.
Of course, that’s not to say that great work isn’t already happening. Across West London a product tellingly called “Patients Know Best” is being rolled out, giving patients their own health data from hospital and primary care systems, which they can view on tablets or smartphones as wished and they choose which clinicians and individuals can view it. The idea being that people are often the best integrators of their information.
In North London patients with multiple sclerosis don’t need to travel to Queen Square when they relapse. They are monitored remotely and supported by expert nurses and doctors to stay at home, with tele-consultations as needed. In South London we’ve kicked off App Prescribing and now have Community Pharmacists prescribing Apps to keep their patients well.
Valuable strides are also being made in related areas – 97 per cent of GP practices in England can now provide online summary records, appointment booking and electronic repeat prescriptions and 13 per cent of citizens are using these facilities already. A commitment has been made to get free WiFi across all NHS premises using the funding received in the recent spending round. Most ambulance services and A&Es – two thirds – can now access essential patient information from GP records such as allergies. We have now mapped over 8,000 completed genomes and are the first country in the world to do this. Big data will be a big part of realising the opportunity within this to create truly personalised medicine.
With DigitalHealth.London we want to help great ideas spread and flourish. We will provide a single way in for digital health tech companies and entrepreneurs and give them access to the best clinical advice to refine their products. We will support hospitals, primary care, mental health, hospices, care homes, community and social care and Londoners themselves to make the most of the digital health care opportunity.
DigitalHealth.London seeks to:
- Create a network across London among those passionate to make progress;
- Build a bridge between the NHS and industry to increase understanding and knowledge transfer.
- Inspire and educate NHS staff so that we become more intelligent customers and articulate demand in such a way digital solutions can better meet them.
- Sort out practical issues on the ground. We have examples of our member trusts using technologies such as Skype to get medical help to patients in their own homes, but who are not paid for this activity. We will work with them to help recognise the value of digital interactions to patients and funders and make these offerings sustainable.
- There is powerful emerging evidence on the benefits of digital health care, we will add to this evidence base to build stronger arguments for digital solutions.
We are also running a DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme taking selected SMEs through a unique one year programme to refine their product and help support scale. The SMEs will be supported by a number of Digital Health Navigators who will help find test sites and expert advice and liaise between the NHS and the companies. Applications for the 2016 cohort closed in May, and we plan to run programmes in 2017 and 2018. So over the next three years we will have worked with 60-90 companies and have reached every part of the NHS in London.
The institute has been founded by the three London AHSNs – UCL Partners, Imperial College Health Partners and ourselves at the Health Innovation Network, MedCity – the front door to the life sciences sector in London and the South East, and the Digital Team in NHS England, working together alongside other partners, including London’s three Academic Health Science Centres which is a tremendously powerful combination. This partnership is the first time these players have embarked on a joint endeavour, because we believe we can speed up the impact of digital health far more effectively by working together than doing so separately.
DigitalHealth.London is very supportive of the work conducted by the SME expert panel, which looked at how digital health SMEs and NHS organisations can work together in more commercially sustainable ways. This is hosted on digitisinghealthcare.com.
We have a very long way to go, but if DigitalHealth.London meets its ambitions, in three years’ time the use of digital across healthcare in London will be unrecognisable, which will be great news for Londoners and the NHS. For more, including how to get involved, please see www.digitalhealth.london.