Skip to content

HETT 2021 Event Review

This week I went to the Healthcare Excellence Through Technology (HETT Show), investigating what’s been hailed as the UK’s leading showcase for health technology. HETT examines the big technology-related challenges facing the industry including workforce management, integration, IT legacy issues, data security and financial pressures.

Each year HETT provides insight, inspiration and learning to digital leaders from around the health sector. This year was no different and, in some ways, it felt even more poignant as it was the first ‘in person’ event many had been to this year, including me. Here’s a honest review of what I thought of the event…

The line-up – 9/10

With such a melting pot of backgrounds all in one room, it was hardly surprising that a recurring theme in many of the talks was collaboration. I really enjoyed the panel sessions where there was a good mixture of senior national influencers, thought-provoking trust digital leaders and innovative suppliers all debating the key issues in digital health right now.

Day one kicked off with a keynote address from the new National Director of Transformation from NHS England and Improvement, Dr Timothy Ferris. He talked about his current priorities being “to recover routine services, tackle the backlog and address health inequalities”. Ferris also provided more information on his new department’s role to focus on redesigning services, “making full use of data and analytics and ensuring the NHS is a platform for innovation”.

NHSX hosted a variety of sessions including a discussion about aligning digital and improvement in NHS transformation. Deputy Director of Digital Health Breid O’Brien said: “We talk about improvement at conferences and we talk about digital but we don’t talk about them together. This is an essential conversation we need to have.” Dermon Ryan, Director of Access to Clinical Information from NHSX, hosted a session on frontline digitalisation. He announced that they have now published the findings of an independent evaluation of the GDE programme to give more and varied support to others going through it.

Discussing user centred design and user research across the NHS, Simon Dixon said together with NHS Digital, their focus nationally is on “removing barriers and continuing to work with industry partners, enabling people to build capability within the design profession.” It will be interesting to see how this plays out in practice.

It was great to meet many of our clients and prospective clients who were speaking including Tomaz Gornik and Matt Cox from Better, Mark Lomax from PEP Health, Simon Evans from Naultilus Consulting and Tim Ringrose from Cognitant. I did feel that some of these sessions which took place in the ASHN network innovator zone and the ORCHA digital patient zone sessions were missed by others though as they weren’t published on the agenda, the app or the website at all. This was a slight oversight from the show, especially as some of the speakers had some good insights and case studies to share.

Our Silver Buccaneers were also heavily involved as part of the steering committee. Sam Shah and Hassan Chaudhury were both chairing panels. Sam chatted to Chief Executive, Navina Evans, on Health Education England’s commitment to diversity. Navina poignantly said “inclusion is not just the right thing to do morally, ethically … it’s business sense, it’s value for money … poor inclusion is wasteful”.

Sam also hosted a fireside chat with Simon Bolton, the new Chief Executive at NHS Digital on Wednesday. “At first I could have been mistaken for being at the wrong fireside chat, was this an NHS CEO or the founder of a tech start up? Sam described. “He was refreshingly relaxed, candid and most importantly focused on people, patients and professionals. There was a lot that I took away from our chat but most of all was the focus on solving meaningful clinical problems. The other thing that struck me was a commitment to doing something about diversity in NHS Digital and understanding the need to work with frontline teams”. It will be interesting to follow the journey of NHS Digital over the next few years with him at the helm.

Despite all this there were some notable absences from well-known names in the sector.

Footfall & Audience – 7/10

Unfortunately, attendance did seem to be a little on the low side. There was a good mix of clinicians and healthcare professionals from primary and secondary care but it was noticeable by the second day that they probably hadn’t manage to attract the same numbers as in previous years. I’m sure COVID-19 played its part here.

Having said that, everyone was in really good spirits and were clearly making the most of being back face-to-face again. One exhibitor I spoke to said she was so glad to see people’s faces again and was telling people to ‘take my business card at your own risk’.

The Venue – 9/10

The venue always lends itself so well to trade shows and having played a vital role during the pandemic as a Nightingale Hospital, the ExCel did an excellent job at making the conference and exhibition feel COVID-safe too.

Content – 8/10

The event covered all the topics close to digital health leaders’ hearts, from integration and interoperability to empowering patients through digital to the economic and tech trends that will shape what’s coming next. Thought provoking sessions gave actionable insights into the most immediate challenges in everything from user-centred design, ethical AI through to patient safety and building inclusive digital services. The agenda was broken down into key topics which included:

  • Reducing the backlog
  • Remote patient monitoring
  • ICS strategy and transformation
  • Decisive action on digital inclusion
  • Professionalisation of informatics
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • AI and clinical confidence

One session I found particularly interesting was from Liz Ashall-Payne from ORCHA Health on the barriers digital health innovators face. An interesting stat from the talk was that 86% of healthcare innovators don’t think that providers have the resource and confidence to access, use and recommend digital health tech to patients.

I also really enjoyed a panel debate on the ethics of AI and addressing algorithmic bias, a subject close to the hearts of one of our latest clients Healum too. The panel included Nadine Hachach-Haram from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, Daniel Ray from Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Brhmie Balaram from NHSX, Alison Gardner from Women in AI network and Peter Buckle. They highlighted that need to be transparent with patients around what their data is being used for to make sure they’re happy. Codesign with relevant stakeholders is also key to assist in clinical decision and creating human centred design.

Nirmit Upadhyay from Healum said: “I found the session ‘Supporting the frontline to deliver What Good Looks Like for digital transformation’ really informative. It brought to life the NHS strategy recently released, particularly around personalised care and the NHS vision for an integrated care using digital for long-term condition management”.

Exhibition – 8/10

The number of new innovations and companies who were exhibiting showed that the sector is booming. Technology is transforming healthcare for patients and providers so it really does feel like it’s an exciting time to be in the industry. I did feel like the interactive features including the Nurse & Midwifery Digital Health Workshop and the ORCHA Digital Patient Zone could have been better publicised. The description on the agenda didn’t really tell me much about what to expect!

Networking – 9/10

I liked the meeting rooms which were set up to allow conversation with others you wanted to meet. Exhibitors could also sign up to a connect with others in a sort of speed dating style where they would receive notifications when they had a ‘match.’

I do think they could have made more of the networking on the app though. I would’ve liked to have had the option to set up a meeting with an exhibitor on there or at least find out the contact details of who was on the stand.

In summary

It was good to see industry back together, no doubt COVID-19 had an impact on numbers but those that were there were making the most of it. I think HETT’s two days of content would’ve really helped digital leaders to get ready to tackle the challenges of the year ahead. It very much felt like suppliers and healthcare organisations and public sector organisations were coming together to try and deliver tangible solutions to create a health sector that works better for everyone.

Overall Silver Buck rating: