Health Tech Newspaper’s (HTN) much-awaited Digital Week returned last week for the third year running, hosting a series of webinars, features, interviews, special reports, live videos and social media sessions. Healthcare providers and industry professionals discussed some of the most hotly debated topics in digital health from the comfort of their own homes. At a time when conferences are cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, HTN’s Digital Week provided a vital platform for important discussion.
HTN used GoToMeetings as their virtual platform for the event. Attendees clicked the links sent to them in association with each webinar, and were sent to a new GoToMeetings window, from which they could enter the presentation. It was a successful platform – my wifi is temperamental, but all the webinars that I attended were mostly glitch-free, with good quality audio and video.
There were occasional hiccups with sound on the presenter side, but these were resolved very quickly, and were most commonly the fault of individual wifi connections, as opposed to the platform itself.
I particularly liked how the platform allowed for several speaking participants during the question and answer sessions at the end, so that attendees could ask their questions in person rather than just adding them to the chat function. Lots of platforms don’t allow for this on presentation mode, and I thought it added a sense of collaboration and community.
The speakers offered an excellent mix between NHS figures and leading digital health suppliers, with topics ranging from digital strategy and software implementation, to AI, the use of data and, of course, the effects of COVID-19. I was particularly impressed by the Department of International Trade’s Sam Shah, who presented on AI and digitisation inequality, covering the fact that the world of data and technology reflects society as a whole, meaning existing disparities are prevalent digitally as well as societally. Sam was clearly passionate about the subject, and answered questions enthusiastically.
Another engaging presenter was ORCHA’s Implementation Manager, Saira Arif, who discussed digital citizen empowerment, emphasising in a similar vein to Sam, that digital advancement has a limited effect if developers don’t empower all members of society to utilise it properly. Saira was extremely articulate and covered a huge amount of detail in just 30 minutes, providing a considerable amount of material – my keyboard was positively steaming with the speed at which I was typing!
We also saw great NHS representation, ranging from Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust talking about creating the right digital strategy through detailed research and understanding stakeholder needs, through to keeping digital human with Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. The latter, presented by the CDIO, Beth Lawson, was particularly engaging, covering their rapid increase of VPN users from 125 to 4,000, and movement of in-trust meetings and training to exclusively online platforms. Beth was clearly very proud of the trust’s digital achievements, and it showed throughout her presentation.
The breadth and depth of content was impressive. I was particularly drawn to the discussions about the accessibility of digital forums for patients, and the statistics showing the percentage of the population that are digitally literate. Many talks – particularly Sam Shah’s and Saira Arif’s – showed that there are considerable amounts of privilege in terms of digital access, relating largely to differences in age, access to resources and cultural divides.
These obstacles have only been exacerbated by the distancing measures of COVID-19, which has intensified the necessity of such forums, and accentuated inequalities. It was interesting to see the measures being implemented by organisations like ORCHA to address these disparities with activity such as surveys, reviews and training programmes, to understand which demographics faced limitations, where they originated from, and how best to improve access through education.
Streamlining workflows through digitisation, including patient engagement traditionally done with letters, for example, were also key areas for discussion. The Healthcare Communications team, who are the market leaders in patient engagement, discussed how they are working with their customers to implement a virtual-by-default transformation, whereby patients would be directed to an online appointments and bookings service to free up administration staff for more complex tasks. It has proven to be particularly helpful to trusts during COVID-19, when routine appointments have been cancelled en masse, and there’s now a backlog of patients needing to be seen by HCPs.
It was particularly interesting to hear how their customers managed reactive patient communications, tracking each individual workflow to view how each patient communication was fulfilled – via paper, over email, over the phone or otherwise, storing all the data in one place via an online portal.
In short, I thought the topics of discussion were relevant, socially aware and really engaging, with speakers who were clearly passionate about the subject.
I thought it was a great idea to host the Health Tech Leaders Awards on twitter: it really boosted interaction and engagement, making the event more fun and accessible to everyone. The only drawback I could identify was that there was a slight lag with post updates, and it could be difficult to keep up; I kept having to refresh the page. However, everything was trailed on their twitter page, and all the award announcements could be checked on the HTN website afterwards.
It was a nice touch to be able to tag the winners, and live-reacting and congratulating the finalists was a closer replication of a physical event than if it had been presented via video presentation.
Winners and categories can be seen on the website.
All in all, the event went without a hitch. HTN brought together some fantastic speakers who covered an engaging range of topics. And the Awards evening was both exciting and heart-warming, bringing to light some hard-earned achievements. We’re excited to attend (virtually) again next year!
Overall Silver Buck score: