Digital Health’s 2019 Review: Top 10 most read news stories

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With the decade drawing to a close and 2020 mere hours away (scary, isn’t it?) it’s that time of year when we take a look back at Digital Health’s most popular stories of the year.

Suffice to say it’s been a big year for the health IT industry. From the establishment of NHSX and fresh investment in NHS England’s flagship LHRE programme, to new starters and fond farewells, 2019 has brought plenty of big headlines to Digital Health News. Join us now as we look at the 10 most-read stories by you, our readers.

10. Topol Review concludes NHS should ‘focus on building digital workforce’

A review by US cardiologist, geneticist and digital health expert Dr Eric Topol caught the attention of Digital Health readers in February, which stressed the need for the NHS to focus on building a digital-ready workforce.

Dr Topol was commissioned by health secretary, Matthew Hancock, and Health Education England in May 2018 to carry out an independent review into the digital training needs of NHS staff.

Dr Topol’s review carried three key principles to support the deployment of digital health across the NHS, in addition to advice on the innovations that would change the function of clinical roles.

Central to executing this was the development of an NHS workforce that possessed “the skills and confidence to adopt and adapt new technologies in practice and in context,” it concluded.

9. Dominic Cummings’ alleged Babylon role raises concerns

Boris Johnson’s most senior aide caused a stir in October after potential links to digital health start-up Babylon were uncovered.

Dominic Cummings is believed to have advised Babylon on its communication’s strategy and senior recruitment, according to an investigation by the Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ).

Cummings’ role with Babylon officially ended in July 2018, however he continued to advise the firm on recruitment grounds until September the same year – the same month Matt Hancock visited Babylon and told them the NHS wanted to help the company expand.

Babylon claimed that Cummings had carried out a “very short, one-off piece of consultancy work” advising on the company’s communications strategy.

Downing Street subsequently told the Guardian that special advisors had no role in authorising expenditure of public funds.

8. List of accredited EPR suppliers published by NHSE and NHSX

A list of IT suppliers accredited to the new Health Systems Support Framework (HSSF) published in August left Digital Health readers scrabbling to find out who’d made the cut.

NHS England and NHSX created a new section on HSSF that aimed to help NHS organisations and integrated care systems get the most bang-for-buck when procuring new infrastructure and digital health services.

Eight companies were subsequently placed on Lot 1 of the framework, with Allscripts, Cerner, DXC, IMS Maxims, Meditech, TPP and System C all making the grade.

The HSSF was created to provide services that support the delivery of integrated care – including population health management – with the new EPR section designed to provide access to supplier systems able to meet Global Digital Exemplars (GDE) standards.

7. Richard Corbridge to leave Leeds Teaching Hospitals

Leeds Teaching Hospitals paid a fond farewell to their chief digital and information officer in March, as Richard Corbridge left the NHS to become the director of innovation for Walgreens Boots Alliance.

Corbridge, who joined Leeds in summer 2017 and was credited for helping turn around the teaching hospital’s problematic relationship with IT, was a vocal advocate of digital transformation in the NHS. He’d also played a central role in green-lighting the continued use of the trust’s open platform EPR.

His departure was one of a string of high-profile IT leaders to leave the NHS in 2019, and came on the coattails of Rachel Dunscombe’s departure one month previous.

6. NHS England awards £16m to second stealth wave of LHCREs

Digital Health scooped exclusive news in February that NHS England had awarded £16m to a second “stealth wave” of Local Health and Care Record Exemplars (LHCREs).

Share2Care, which covers Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria, Cheshire and Merseyside, the Great North Care Record and the South West, were unveiled by Digital Health as the three new sites selected to drive forward shared care records in England.

We also reported that OneLondon, covering the whole of London and by far the largest of the LHCRE projects, was expected to have its funding doubled to £15m.

A total of 10 regional shared records programmes were invited to bid for LHCRE status in early 2018, which also included Greater Manchester, Wessex and One London, Thames Valley and Yorkshire and Humber.

5. NHS England launches campaign to encourage people to apply for IT jobs

Breaking into the top five most read stories was the launch of a campaign by NHS England to attract tech-savvy staff into the NHS.

Carrying the slogan “We are IT. We are Support. We are recruiting now,” it marked the first nationwide TV advertising campaign launched by the NHS to tempt digital staff into the fold.

4. Matthew Gould confirmed as new CEO of NHSX by DHSC

April brought the announcement that Matthew Gould had been named chief executive of NHSX, two months after the new unit was formed.

The former diplomat and government director for cyber security was named as point-man for setting the national technology agenda across the NHS’s health and social care estate in England.

Speaking at the time, Gould laid forth his vision for establishing a digital-first NHS, explaining that NHSX’s single goal would be “to improve the care that everyone in the country gets by making sure that both staff and patients have the technology they need.”

3. TestCard scoops win at first ever Digital Health Rewired Pitchfest

Breaking into the top three was TestCard, which managed to scoop the first ever Digital Health Rewired Pitchfest for its device that embeds a urine diagnostic device into a postcard.

TestCard, which allows individuals to perform urine tests at home, beat off stiff competition during a fiercely fought final round during the inaugural Digital Health Rewired Conference and Expo at London’s Olympia in March 2019.

The test was hailed by NHS England’s chief digital officer, Tara Donnelly, as a “transformative innovation that could make a huge difference not just in this country but overseas as well”.

Testcard was one of four finalists in all, whittled down from 70 entrants at the outset.

2. Boots launches free online NHS repeat prescription service

Taking the number two spot in Digital Health’s most-read list was the launch of an online NHS repeat prescription service by high street pharmacy retailer Boots.

Launched in May, the service allows users to order repeat medication from their GP and have it sent for collection at Boots stores – or delivered directly to their door – free of charge.

The service is based on technology from digital health company Wiggly-Amps, which was acquired by the pharmacy chain in January, and can be accessed via a smartphone app.

1. Digital Health News confirms new NHSX unit to oversee digital transformation

And finally, the most read story on Digital Health News in 2019 was the formation of the new NHSX unit, set up to oversee digital transformation in the NHS.

The news was confirmed after Digital Health saw an email sent by Sarah Wilkinson to NHS Digital staff, which outlined the responsibilities of the newly-formed unit, established to bring together the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement.

This includes laying out national policy and best practice for NHS tech, setting standards, driving implementation and reforming IT procurement processes, as well as championing the NHS’s cyber security agenda.

Matthew Gould later penned an exclusive column for Digital Health News in which he laid out his ambitions for NHSX and NHS IT as a whole.

These centre on five key “missions”: reducing the burden on clinicians and staff so they focus on caring for patients; giving citizens the tools to access services and information directly; ensuring clinical information can be accessed safely wherever it’s needed; aiding the improvement of patient safety; and improving NHS productivity with digital technology.

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