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HETT 2019 Event Review

It wasn’t long after dawn when I left my home in West London and began my journey to ExCeL for this year’s HETT show. I was excited to be en route; it was to be my first HETT show and I was eager to learn from the many esteemed attendees. 

During my journey, I wondered what to expect. No matter how many exhibitions I attend, no two ever feel the same. Here is my review of this year’s event. 

The line-up – 8/10

Day One: 

  • Sam Shah, Director of Digital Development, NHSX 
  • Matthew Gould, CEO, NHSX 
  • Rachel Dunscombe, Global ARCH Collaborative Lead KLAS Research; CEO, NHS Digital Academy
  • James Freed, CIO, Health Education England 

Day Two: 

  • Tara Donnelly, Chief Digital Officer, NHSX
  • Dame Fiona Caldicott, National Data Guardian for Health and Social Care 
  • Polly Bishop, Director of Digital Experience, NHSX
  • Radhika Rangaraju, Head of Integration, Digital Urgent and Emergency Care Operations and Information, NHSX

With over 130 speakers, including some of the most well-known names in the industry, we were spoilt for choice with the line up at HETT 2019. The above examples are only a small handful. That being said, the billing could still have done with one or two more big names to keep the excitement going until the last moment. This was particularly true on day two of the conference.

Footfall & Audience – 8/10

As is often the case with two-day exhibitions, the second day was a little quieter than the first. Overall, though, this year’s HETT was busy. Billed as the UK’s leading technology event, thousands of people flocked to ExCeL London to mingle amongst some of the brightest digital health leaders and innovators, and to visit some of the 120+ exhibitors. 

It certainly showed. The gangways were bustling and talks were often over capacity, with many attendees left standing just outside the theatres, trying to keep up with the action.

HETT 2019 was billed as being ‘designed by the healthcare industry, for the healthcare industry’, boasting ‘70% senior audience’ and it certainly showed. Walking around the hall, I was amazed by how many big names I bumped into. And this was echoed by exhibitors, many of whom commented that the exhibition had attracted a really good group of attendees.

Event management – 8/10

Silver Buck was the official PR partner for HETT 2019, and so I attended the show as a part of the press office. I arrived at the hall at 8:30am, before the main doors were open and so had to enter through the trade entrance. 

The hall was a little overwhelming at first. Unlike the main entrance, the trade entrance didn’t have a large floor plan on display and so finding my stand proved to be a little tricky. However, once I had, everything else went smoothly. 

Being part of the press office afforded me the opportunity to speak with a range of exhibitors, attendees and journalists about the event. In general, the consensus was good. This is largely credited to the event organisers, who got staffing over the two days spot-on.

I’d also like to pay particular thanks to the member of staff that gave me a handful of plasters, saving my heels from my painful shoes. My new pair of smart, black trainers that I thought would be comfortable were anything but!

My only small gripe was that I wasn’t able to find a seat in all of the sessions that I attended. Perhaps in future events, the organisers could make the theatres a little larger. However, it was great to see such well attended sessions.

The Venue – 7/10

As we all know, ExCeL London can be a little tricky to get to, depending on where you live. The DLR is the primary transport link and on event days, DLR trains heading to and from the venue are always packed! This was especially true this time around, as taking place at the same time as HETT were two other large exhibitions: Brand Licensing Europe and Microsoft Future Decoded.

However, as a venue, I think it’s entirely serviceable. It’s spacious, well laid-out and the food and drink options are fairly reasonable. That said, it was quite difficult to find somewhere to sit and eat lunch (if lucky enough to get away from the stand long enough!) 

The other exhibitions contributed to the lunch rush, which seemed to last all day. In hindsight, it would have been good to have know how busy the ExCeL was going to be in advance, as I could have brought food with me.

Content – 8/10

The content at HETT 2019 was impressive. There were four separate theatres with talks and panel discussions taking place, and quite often I found myself wanting to be in multiple places at the same time. 

Day One started with a bang, with Sam Shah’s opening Chair Address at the Culture and Implementation Theatre immediately followed by a talk from Mathew Gould, the Chief Executive Officer of NHSX. 

Gould kicked off by discussing his time spent working as a British Ambassador to Israel and, more specifically, his experience of cultural differences – and how they relate to the cultural differences that exist in the NHS, between medical professionals and tech innovators. 

“On the one hand, you have the culture of the NHS and medical professionals, which is risk-averse,” said Gould. 

“And that’s absolutely correct because, when patient safety is at stake, the idea of failing fast and breaking things isn’t appropriate.

“Then you have the tech world, which is all about moving fast and apologising later and pivoting. It’s geared towards constant disruption and incessant change.

“That has led to a way of doing things where innovation takes time, and this can be incredibly frustrating to innovators.”

According to Gould, NHSX will help to bridge this gap by working more closely with the health-tech sector, adding: We have a lot of work to do, but if we can get it right, the rewards for staff at frontline, patients and innovators will be huge.”

However, if you’re hoping that NHSX will speed up innovation by developing new standards, then you may be disappointed. 

Speaking at the Integration and Interoperability Theatre, Terrence Eden, Senior Technology Advisor at NHSX, said: “Developing standards takes a huge amount of time, effort and money and those are three things which we don’t have.”

Instead, Edens said that NHSX will look for the best international open standards already in use.

“We want to be able to buy software from around the world,” he explained. “And we want our software to integrate with other health systems. We can’t take a parochial attitude to data and integration anymore.” 

Aside from NHSX, other key points of discussion centered around four key areas: digitally empowered patients, culture and implementation, integration and interoperability, and digital maturity.

And this conversation was even led by some suppliers: “Matthew Gould and Matthew Hancock say interoperability is the biggest problem, and we still have some fairly proprietary interoperability,” said David Hancock, Co-Chair of INTEROPen. 

Speaking at the Integration and Interoperability Theatre, Hancock argued that interoperability in healthcare was “nowhere near” where it needed to be, adding: “We’ve had slow coverage and implementation […] there’s a general lack of interoperability – I think we’ll all agree with that.”

Other speakers at HETT 2019 included a range of digital leaders, including Silver Buccaneer and CIO of Northern Care Alliance, Tracey Watson; James Freed, CIO of Health Education England; Rachel Dunscombe, CEO of NHS Digital Academy; and Tara Donnelly, Chief Digital Officer of NHSX. 

Exhibition – 8/10

With in excess of 120 exhibitors, there was something for everybody at HETT 2019. The show has gone from strength to strength over the years and this year attracted everything from household names such as Fujitsu and HP, to established players in the digital health field, to exciting start-ups. 

This led to a lot of interesting and diverse conversations between attendees and exhibitors on the show floor. HETT 2019 was prepared for this; the floor’s wide aisles and large refreshment area in the centre helped to keep conversations flowing with minimal congestion.

Networking – 9/10

There were lots of opportunities to network at this year’s HETT show, from unofficial pub gatherings, to an official drinks reception organised by HETT at the end of the first day. 

Walking around the conference floor, I also heard lots of positive noises about the HETT Connect Portal. The portal is a matchmaking tool that allowed exhibitors and visitors at HETT to connect prior to the show and arrange meetings on-site. 

In summary

I had a great time at HETT 2019. It offered an impressive range of speakers, exhibitors and even attendees, meaning that there was never a dull moment. Given the progress the show has made over the years raising its profile and broadening its scope, I am really curious to see what HETT 2020 brings to the table.

Next time around though, I’ll definitely be wearing a different pair of shoes…

Overall Silver Buck rating: