Digital health event catalyses new innovations

Digital health innovation across the North was put under the spotlight at the first Digital Catalyst conference in Newcastle.

With a rapidly evolving digital landscape comes the need to realise the advantages of digital technology in healthcare and introduce technology responsibly and safely.

Digital Catalyst brought together innovators from across the digital health ecosystem at Newcastle’s Crowne Plaza to hear inspirational keynotes from local and national leaders and a series of success stories from businesses that have delivered real digital health solutions.

Speakers, which included representatives from Microsoft, Babylon Health, ORCHA, Newcastle University, Great North Care Record, Proximie and many more, covered a wide range of digital areas including artificial intelligence, virtual reality, telemedicine, mobile health, social media and big data science.

Richard Brady, a bowel surgeon at the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, chair of the event and Digital Clinical Lead for NIHR Clinical Research Network North East and North Cumbria (NIHR CRN NENC), said: “The world of digital health is changing so rapidly, and the region must keep up. The excitement of today’s technological advance is quickly followed by tomorrow’s old news and the region cannot afford to rest in its efforts and innovations in this field.

“We have the right people, the right talent and the right will, but we need to get much better at harnessing the expertise, finance and delivery of industry and linking our great people and their fantastic energy with the people who have the solutions – this event helped to catalyse these relationships.”

Digital Catalyst also aimed to harness the power of the varied digital healthcare expertise in the room to address specific challenges identified by frontline healthcare professionals across the region. Delegates had the chance to work in teams to share knowledge and expertise to generate ideas around potential digital innovations that could address these problems.

Following this, local healthcare staff pitched the collective ideas to a panel of industry judges for the chance to win funding and support, provided by organisers the Academic Health Science Network North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC) and NIHR CRN NENC, to develop these innovations further.

First prize went to South Tees Hospitals, who will receive support to develop the collective ideas discussed at the event around how gamification can be incorporated into care pathways and treatment options to increase compliance and enhance patient satisfaction.

Second place was awarded to the team who developed ideas around a solution to digitally enable clinicians to triage patients, a challenge which was presented by staff from Newcastle Hospitals.

Ideas to address a challenge identified by staff at Newcastle Hospitals on how to digitise catheter passports was highly commended.

Charlotte Fox, Innovation Manager at the AHSN NENC, said: “In the North East and North Cumbria, we are privileged to boast such a diverse and forward-thinking health ecosystem covering NHS, industry and academia. As a region, it is crucial that we work together to explore, develop and implement digital health innovations, and Digital Catalyst provided the ideal platform to stimulate debate, collaboration and progress for the ultimate benefit of patients.

“In advance of the event, we talked to frontline NHS staff across the region to understand the challenges they face that could benefit from a digital solution and Digital Catalyst enabled multidisciplinary teams of healthcare experts to pool expertise and knowledge to generate some really exciting ideas and innovations to address these problems. We’re looking forward to working more closely with the winning teams to help move these ideas toward becoming a reality and for that progress to be showcased at Digital Catalyst 2020.”

Chris Speed, Deputy Chief Operating Officer for NIHR CRN NENC who sat on the judging panel, said: “Digital Catalyst 19 was key for the region because it demonstrated the wealth of talent and expertise in digital technologies that we have on our doorstep. It brought together the people who had ideas about the ways that the NHS could offer better and more efficient services and the people and companies with the skills, expertise and technology to offer the solutions. By networking and matching on the day, productive relationships were formed.

“The pitches for funding were of very high quality. Each clearly identified their problem to solve and made the case for support clearly and concisely. The judging panel was impressed at the quantity and quality of the pitches. Congratulations to South Tees, it was a tough competition on the day and it is an outstanding achievement.”

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