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Key trends from Rewired: NHS's focus on digital ambitions

Rewired 2024
Discover insights from Rewired 2024, where NHS experts discuss the integration of AI and digital prevention strategies for advancing healthcare.

Last week, Rewired, the annual health conference dedicated to digital innovation, data, and IT, took centre stage. Drawing on experts from across healthcare, sharing their experience applying digital solutions and transformation approaches at a local to national level, the conference spotlighted pivotal trends resonating within the NHS, revolving around prevention, productivity, collaboration and the burgeoning role of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

A focus on digital prevention

While prevention-based approaches have long been part of the NHS's arsenal, the aftermath of Covid-19 and the resounding success of the national vaccination campaign have reignited fervent discussions on digital prevention. Dr Vin Diwaker, NHSE’s Medical Director for Transformation, set the tone for this renewed focus in his opening keynote speech on Wednesday, emphasising the imperative for personalised healthcare in the digital era. 

The conference followed a timely announcement of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s pledge of £3.4bn for NHS tech transformation. The former longest-serving Health Secretary will have been happy with the focus on the NHS App he originally commissioned in 2018. With 33.6 million users, nearly three-quarters of England’s adults onboard (for reference, that’s double the number of households using Netflix), the focus now pivots towards enhancing user engagement.  

Rachel Hope, Director of Digital Prevention Services at NHS England, shared how success has been achieved at scale, and how the NHS App will become the ‘Digital front door to the NHS’, poised to spearhead digital prevention initiatives at scale, supporting millions of users with their health, and importantly, lessening the footfall on primary and secondary care services.

Increasing productivity through digital

Many talks explored how digital, data and IT could alleviate administrative burdens and support frontline caregivers closest to patients, freeing up time and allowing these crucial specialists to focus on what they do best. 

Quirky anecdotes about the precious seconds lost to 'computer warm-up' rituals underscored the urgency for efficiency enhancements. The stage is set for a paradigm shift in productivity benchmarks, heralding a new era of streamlined healthcare delivery.

Navigating AI

You couldn’t miss the buzz around AI at Rewired. Dedicated sessions explored the potential of AI application, and there was a general nod by most speakers around its future opportunities across the healthcare landscape. 

Dr Jessica Morley gave a powerful talk on what the risks could be to people if we get this wrong. Reminding us of the ethical tightrope AI navigates, cautioning against the perils of unchecked biases inherent in data-driven algorithms. As AI in the NHS enters its nascent stages, robust governance frameworks must be crafted to steer its ethical application.

Optimism amidst challenge

Despite minor disruptions from the wider healthcare landscape which broke last week, optimism permeated Rewired, perhaps lifted by the Chancellor’s commitment to tech transformation funding. But perhaps more so by the strength of the success stories shared. 

From Virtual Wards to the future potential of the NHS App, it does feel like NHS senior leadership recognises and is embracing the opportunities presented by digitisation. The path forward appears promising. As we collectively navigate this transformative journey, let’s continue to forge ahead with pragmatism and ambition to redefine healthcare delivery for years to come.

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Jessica Ferguson

Senior Partner

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Iain O'Neil

Managing Partner - Health

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