All good tech design starts with real problems, for real people

This year’s Health and Care Innovation Expo was the biggest and most inspiring yet, with over 5,000 delegates and 200 hours of thought provoking talks, workshops and sessions. Juliet Bauer discusses her key take home messages from the event.

I was happy to have the chance to talk at several of these about the exciting work we are doing to digitally transform the NHS and give patients a more convenient and joined up experience.

My take home message was this: all good tech design starts with real problems, for real people.

In my area, we’ve recognised that people struggle to understand and navigate the complex, and somewhat fragmented, health and care system, so we’re transforming Giving patients digital access to services such as GP appointments, health records and test results in a single online location, regardless of where they are treated, solves this problem by providing them with one easy to manage relationship with the NHS.

The Secretary of State for Health announced at Expo that we will take this solution a step further and ensure that people can access services, not just online, but also via smartphone app by 2018. We will be piloting an app enabling patients to book appointments, consult with their GPs, access NHS 111 and order repeat prescriptions using their smartphones.

Fortunately, we are not alone in taking this person-centred approach and Expo was awash with patient focused technology initiatives.

One that particularly stood out for me was the announcement that the NHS is trialling new wearable sensors, based on technology used by NASA and the film industry, to help identify patients at risk of falls so that they can be prevented.

This innovation could make a huge difference given the Age UK report which highlighted up to one-in-three over 65’s suffer a fall that can cause serious injury or death every year, costing the NHS an estimated £6 million a day and having a major impact on people’s quality of life.

This technology was developed in partnership with Intel and is yet another reminder that we must open up the NHS to outside expertise in order to enable truly innovative technology that drastically improves patient health.

Our site is going a long way towards doing this, by providing developers with access to testing tools, health data and guidance so that they can create apps for the NHS Digital Apps Library that we know will work and make the biggest difference to patients.

Of course, we also have to ensure that internally, we are ready for the challenge that digital transformation brings. To ensure this, Chief Information Officer, Will Smart, and Chief Clinical Information Officer, Keith McNeil, took the opportunity to launch the NHS Digital Academy. Led by Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation in partnership with Harvard Medical School and The University of Edinburgh, the Academy will provide virtual masterclasses in digital leadership to ensure NHS staff have the skills they need.

But it isn’t just staff skills that we need to think about, after all, the greatest users of the NHS, accounting for half of NHS spending, are also the people most likely to be digitally excluded.

Our Widening Digital Participation programme has already helped 400,000 people to get online and I was proud that Jeremy Hunt chose Expo to announce our plans to roll out another 20 digital inclusion hubs over the next three years. This work alongside new guides developed by NHS England to help people with sight loss, hearing loss, autism or learning disabilities use GP services online will make a huge difference to patients’, and carers’ lives by enabling them to have a more convenient and cohesive relationship with the NHS.

So, we are tackling technology the right way; identifying problems, developing solutions, testing thoroughly and looking at the challenge holistically. From the solutions themselves to all the important work that supports and enables them; workforce, support and access, we are on the right track and accelerating towards a better digital NHS.

Juliet Bauer

Juliet was previously NHS England’s Chief Digital Officer. Tara Donnelly is due to take over the role of CDO at the beginning of February. She will oversee a portfolio of digital services including the NHS website, NHS ‘assured’ apps library, and the development of digital services to empower patients to better manage their health and care, including long-term conditions such as diabetes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Kassander says:

    ” … for real people.”
    What other sorts of people call on the services of NHS, please?

    (nuq jach nuv Segh latlh chavmoH nhs, nuqneH?)

  2. David Mike says:

    Hi Juliet Bauer, very useful blog

  3. Unimpressed says:

    What load of tosh