Last year’s Digital Health Rewired was the last physical event many of us can remember, with hand sanitiser and elbow handshakes still a novelty and COVID–19 dominating discussions in the gangways. As you might then expect, Rewired was somewhat different this year, with the event extended from two to five days between 15-19 March and hosted virtually for the first time.
Even so, a lot was expected of the industry’s flagship event and more than 3000 delegates from across the world signed up for the jam-packed schedule of inspirational keynotes, lively panel debates, video case studies, lightning talks, tech showcases and networking opportunities.
The platform — 10/10
The virtual platform for Digital Health Rewired was brilliant. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it is the best platform I’ve used since events went digital by default. The login was seamless and the interface was easy to navigate, with a selection of tabs running down the left-hand side of the screen allowing users to toggle between the live event, agenda, speakers, networking rooms and workshops.
The live stream worked perfectly too and viewers were given the opportunity to start discussions with other delegates and engage with presenters via the chat and Q&A function, which was a welcome addition. One of the benefits of a digital Q&A is that it empowers shy delegates to ask questions more discretely, which they may not have done in an open auditorium.
Of course, Rewired also had the additional benefits of no travel and the ability to listen to sessions without distraction, at home or on the go (not that we could really go anywhere other than the shop!). Like many others I spoke with over the five days, I was very impressed.
Speakers — 10/10
The line-up of speakers was exceptionally strong at this year’s Digital Health Rewired, ranging from national policymakers to senior figures from NHS England & Improvement, NHS Digital and NHSX. There was also strong representation from suppliers, with the likes of Tomaž Gornik, Founder and CEO of Better and Michael Beckett, interim director of IT at Medway NHS Foundation Trust, who talked about their plans to deploy an Allscripts EPR in just six months, amongst the plethora of talent on display over the five-day event.
Adding to the already impressive line-up, just three days before the event, delegates were given the news that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, had been confirmed as a keynote speaker — his first event on the UK digital health circuit in years. And who doesn’t like surprises, right?
Other standout speakers included:
- Sarah Wilkinson, CEO, NHS Digital
- Matthew Gould, CEO, NHSX
- Dr Navina Evans, CEO, Health Education England
- Dr Simon Eccles, Deputy CEO, NHSX
- Sonia Patel, CIO, NHSX
- Indra Joshi, Director of AI, NHSX
Silver Buck advisory board members Richard Corbridge, CIO, Boots UK, and Mala Mawkin, Head of Market Development, Cellen, also spoke at the event!
Content — 9/10
This year’s Digital Health Rewired was loaded with content, with more than 300 speakers presenting across the five days. The comprehensive online programme was divided between 10 summits, celebrating the best in digital health and data. Dividing the content in this way allowed for easier comparison on the same subject areas and added a real structure to the week.
Sessions generally lasted 10 to 30 minutes and the newly introduced lightning talks (five-minute quickfire video presentations) added real pace and diversity to the event — a big favourite for us.
Irina Bolychevsky, the Director of Standards and Interoperability at NHSX, delivered one of the standout presentations on day one of Digital Health Rewired 2021, explaining that “interoperability can’t just be done from the centre” and calling upon those working in health technology to help design future standards to inform how they should work.
As you might expect, COVID-19 was a key talking point over the course of the five day event. On day two of Rewired, for example, Sarah Wilkinson, CEO of NHS Digital, listed her five key digital takeaways from the last year which has seen NHS Digital involved in a number of national projects including the shielded patient list and scaling up NHS 111 Online. She also spoke compassionately about NHS staff and how they simply cannot continue after what has been the most challenging time of their personal and professional lives. We now know this was her last public talk before she handed in her resignation last week.
Matthew Gould, CEO of NHSX, also offered his thoughts on the pandemic, saying that the NHS took “bigger and bolder” steps on digital and that it had been a “remarkable” year for health technology, with a renewed focus on the need for digital to be at the heart of the NHS.
Given the prominence of COVID at this years’ event, there was a welcome step-change when Dr Shera Chok, the co-founder and chair of The Shuri Network, told the Rewired audience that the network has grown to more than 1,000 members. Our congratulations go out to Silver Buck advisory board member Sarah Amani and the rest of the Shuri Network, who do so much to support diversity and inclusion across the sector.
Undoubtedly, the most talked-about session of the week was Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock’s, keynote address on a jam-packed day four, which also featured Simon Eccles, CCIO and deputy CEO, NHSX and Sonia Patel, NHSX CIO. During his speech, Hancock broke the news that 32 additional trusts have been named in the second wave of the Digital Aspirant programme and that he is looking into creating “a consistent data platform” which would see patient data separated from the application layer.
Find out how the industry reacted to the news here.
The week concluded with the AI and Data Summit and “New Normal” on Friday, which included a presentation from Ming Tang, the National Director for Data and Analytics at NHS England and Improvement.
However, the highlight of the final day of Digital Health Rewired was Pitchfest. This year’s heats ran from Monday to Thursday, with each start-up delivering three-minute a lightning video pitch to the judges, which included Silver Buck advisory board member and CIO of Boots UK, Richard Corbridge.
Peppy Health, an app that connects people going through challenging health stages, was crowned the overall winner, with founder Mridula Pore, delivering the winning presentation and shrugging off competition from Concentric Health and MediShout. Peppy will now have the chance to test and scale their innovative project with Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust as part of #CWInnovation.
Networking — 7/10
Digital Health Rewired had designated networking areas and delegates were encouraged to set up meetings and visit virtual booths. The event organisers did their best to encourage people to visit these areas of the platform, but the fact of the matter is: networking just isn’t the same at virtual events. Nothing quite compares to the conversations you have waiting in a coffee queue, or in the pub after a long day of conferencing. Although the yoga was a really great addition (again, please!) it felt like a fun, social virtual element was lacking although we’re not quite sure where it could have been slotted in!
Digital Health Rewired 2021 is the best virtual event we’ve attended, and even though we miss the hustle and bustle of the conference floor and having one too many drinks in the Hand and Flower, the video presentation format works really well and elements of it should be retained when we inevitably return to the more familiar physical format. It will be interesting to see what the event organisers have got up their sleeves — watch this space!
Overall Silver Buck rating: