Reflections from NHS ConfedExpo 2022

As 2022’s #NHSConfedExpo comes to a close, we’re reflecting on the week’s key takeaways relating to digital healthcare.

It was great to see DHC members TeleTracking and HBSUK both have stalls at the conference. They spoke to attendees about how they can offer innovative digital solutions to current challenges –  such as optimising bed utilisation, reducing delays, and using digital triage to reduce waitlists.

Unsurprisingly conversations around the conference focussed on strategies to tackle current NHS pressures, with waiting lists and emergency care pressures at unprecedented levels.

Many discussions highlighted how digital technologies are being used to improve access and maximise efficiency as a solution. However many obstacles must be overcome at all levels of the system to create a truly optimal environment for digital innovation such as clearer mechanisms for reimbursement, investing in quality services rather than familiar quick fixes and simplifying access.

Empowering people across health and social care was a key theme at the conference – a priority for DHC members. We listened with interest to Google’s chief health officer who discussed the importance of fostering trust in consumers and patients, and how patients can be empowered with digital tools and technologies which enable them to take ownership of their health and lead to better outcomes.

Sessions on virtual wards raised awareness of how they can tackle waiting lists and patient backlogs, supporting patients while they wait. There was a welcome focus on measuring patients’ experiences of digital technologies, finding a quarter of patients in a virtual ward in Croydon aged 80+ rating the technology as 9/10 for usability. We strongly support this approach to evaluation – ensuring patients’ views and experiences are prioritised.

Some speakers advocated rebranding virtual wards as “hospital at home”, highlighting the impact language can have on patient expectation and therefore experience. It is so important we get this right to set expectations about the high quality services offered by virtual wards.

At the top of the line-up were keynote speeches from Sajid Javid and Amanda Pritchard. Unsurprisingly both covered significant ground, including the barriers between health and social care. Again, digital can offer so much in this area. Providers such as Digital Healthcare Council member Elder match people with community-based carers, an approach that is so much more cost-effective than long-term residential provision, and also frees up capacity in residential care for those who need it.

We look forward to seeing how last week’s discussions will lead to meaningful change, and use digital approaches to benefit patients, staff and service users.