Bruce a real health tech hit in the UK

By Alex Metcalfe, account manager, ZPB

Last week the Cambridge Health Network membership were treated to an exclusive evening with the new Chief Technology Officer of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Before the ‘Health tech in the USA’ event, Bruce D. Greenstein had told Pam Garside, co-chair of the network, that “nothing was off limits”, which intrigued the attendees.

It was clear Bruce is a strong believer in the use of data to help people make informed healthcare decisions, regarding the quality and cost of the care they expect to receive. For change like this to happen in healthcare, it requires what he called “cultural warriors” to campaign for a culture shift.

Bruce gave the members a real insight into his thoughts on what the differences and similarities are between the US and UK in terms of health tech.

One similarity in Bruce’s opinion was that our healthcare systems are very cultural. He highlighted the importance of cajoling people along the way, and is a change is ever going to happen it needs to be something that really matters and is for the good of patients. And this requires ‘warriors’.

Bruce also knew how to get an audience on side, by saying: “The UK is the best when it comes to data” and the way we use it. Whereas, across the pond they collect a lot of data, but the governance agreements aren’t in place to share it. Bruce said people are now calling to “liberate data”, but before that can happen they need a strategy of how the data will be used.

He gave the recent example of the opioid abuse crisis in the US, and how data from across their whole healthcare system can be used to make a real difference and save lives – “you can’t put a measure on delivering these kind of outcomes”.

As part of Bruce’s tour of the NHS, he went to NHS Expo in Manchester. His reflection from the conference was one of surprise as to how much the discussions mirrored those being had in the USA, in terms of: data use, error reduction and sharing responsibility with patients.

Unsurprisingly he also noted that we don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we have achieved – classic Brits.

With such obvious similarities, Bruce stated the importance of the US and UK continuing to work together and learn from each other. He was particularly interested to find out more about how the NHS dealt with the recent cyber-attack.

Bruce was joined in the spotlight by Matthew Swindells, National Director for Commissioning Operations and Information at NHS England.

Matthew took a turn on the mic, to tell the network about what is happening in the UK and what he has learnt from his time with Bruce and previously working in the US. He acknowledged that his US experience has helped inform the NHS England health tech strategy.

Matthew also held his hands up about being able to look clever when you are replicating someone else’s IT successes, because you can use what went right and not what didn’t. Which he said is very much what he is trying to do, particularly around investment, innovation and ownership of health tech. Matthew highlighted the global digital exemplars as one way the UK is trying to set the bar higher, as we are lagging behind.

Matthew told the audience he believes the priorities for the NHS regarding health tech are:

  1. Interoperability – the need to share data beyond acute settings and into the community, with a system focus, rather than organisational

  2. Apps not portals – to remove duplication and consolidate data, for patients to access and enable innovators to use the data.

This led Matthew nicely on to mention that NHS England has just made 92 data sets publicly available, alongside a completion launched to find out who can use them in the smartest way.

Pam and the audience were then given the chance to ask the duet the burning questions they had, which saw several hands shoot up around the room.

Bruce finished the session with another crowd pleaser, by saying how: “the people are the UK’s greatest treasure, as there are so many enthusiastic people, who want to do the right thing.” Cue applause.

The event took place at McDermott Will & Emery’s fantastic venue high up in the Heron Tower – and the canapés also deserve a mention.