Reflections on the NHS Innovation Expo (UK)

Editor Charles visited the Expo in Manchester on Tuesday 4th March – here are his personal reflections.

I decided to devote the one day I had to visit the NHS Innovation Expo to visiting stands to try to spread the word about DHACA that was launched last week.

The first thing I noticed about the event was that it seemed less crowded than previous ones. When passing them, I never saw the main auditoria full either, very much in contrast to earlier Expos.

The other principal observation was that there seemed to be less innovation on display. The Future Care Zone for example was almost bare, a great disappointment, and the Digital Zone’s NHS Choices Health Apps Library stand featured less apps than last year’s event, even though the number of apps in the library have apparently doubled in the last year to 170. (It was explained to me that before featuring an app, NHS Choices needed to get permission from the app provider. Many had not replied – I wonder why, given that it was free publicity in a market where differentiation is key. If that was you, do please drop us a comment to explain).

The two areas that seemed to be buzzing loudest were the Entrepreneur Zone and the AHSN Zone. In the former, a continuing favourite of mine, that I have now begun advising, was Speakset. They make an incredibly simple system for adding videoconferencing to an ordinary TV, which as Kevin Doughty explained at last week’s RSM event, is the best way of communicating with older, older people, who spend longer watching television than any other age group. Opposite them was a great online psychiatry service called Psychiatry-UK offering online consultations. WebGP was offering an online consultation facility for GPs that reduces the load on practices and so improves patient access which looks most impressive. This is used by the Hurley Group of London GP practices (now also looking outside London they told me) who were one of the few occupants of the Future Care Zone, and who had some excellent statistics on how e-consultation benefits all. (Given the challenges of getting to see my doctor I was very tempted to ask them to make an offer for my GP’s practice).

Noticeably in decline were the hobbyist systems, although North Lincolnshire & Goole Foundation Trust were showing their home-grown Web V clinical portal which had a particularly impressive ward management page showing the clinical details of the occupant of each bed, and handled risk management extremely well. (No website given – contact It seems they have strong board support for development so let’s hope others can buy into this initiative and it can become a generally accepted package to improve patient outcomes and reduce risk and costs.

Saypage were offering a great online meetings platform that can be used for video consultation using PC, tablet or phone, with impressive flexibility. Kinesis GP showed a GP:consultant service that has significantly reduced referrals in the Wandsworth CCG since implementation in late 2012. Offering “integration at the point of delivery” for health and social care systems was Totalmobile. Coordinate My Care (CMC), the provider of urgent care plans across London for people with terminal illnesses were showing compelling evidence of £2,102/person savings for the NHS in reduced unplanned hospital/A&E visits and a much-increased percentage of people dying in their preferred place of death. There are substantial development plans for CMC too.

Debuting in the UK, and hungry for their first customer, was US-based iCare, who told me they are the only cloud based EHR service. DSS were offering vxVistA, an open-source EHR. See their impressive NHS Campaign website.

Offering some very up-to-the minute midwife training and birth problem visualisation resources was Serious Games International with some brilliant graphics.

As might be expected there were a few apps stands. Microstrategy, a US company that also works in many other sectors, was offering a broad app building capability. Mobilengine offered similar, more health-focused, services, with an emphasis on management via your own portal. OpenApp was offering a patient-centric platform to support clinical assessment and patient monitoring. There was relatively little classic telehealth on display – Docobo, whose products include DocoboAPP, were on both the SBRI and Crawley stands, and MSD Healthcare Services were showing their ClosercareTM telehealth system that is apparently downloadable as an app onto Android devices. Innovation Labs were showcasing a range of mental health apps aimed at young people.  Big White Wall had a good display explaining their expertise in delivering personalised mental health and wellbeing pathways.

I got to try the AliveCor one lead ECG smartphone attachment and app too. Since I blogged enthusiastically about this product, AliveInsights, the service to interpret the trace has become available in the UK, for a flat fee of £5/interpretation. At the Expo it was free, and has now arrived following a nudge, a week after the event (see comment below). Sadly it is considered ‘poor quality’ so of limited diagnostic value, although the good news is that, within that limitation, all appears well.

One aspect of telehealth that evidence suggests can be critically important is health coaching – Atlantis Healthcare offer a range of patient support systems to provide this.

And finally, a stand that really impressed me, in part because of the entrepreneurial zeal of the founders and in part because they were doing so much better job than elsewhere in the NHS, was DrDoctor who were demonstrating how they improve patient communication, evidencing for example a further 29% DNA reduction at Heatherwood & Wexham Park, where basic SMS messaging had already been in place for five years. This saved just under £1m in a year. Just think what they will achieve elsewhere in the NHS which still sends patients fewer SMS appointment reminders than hairdressers do their customers in the UK!

Sadly I ran out of time before being able do justice to the AHSN Zone, in part because each stand was so busy that it was necessary to wait one’s turn. These organisations, upon which much of the NHS future innovation will depend, were clearly raising a lot of interest. I will be reporting back from the NW Coast AHSN’s first digital health event at the end of the month.

There were also a few stands I never got to visit, most notably, in retrospect, Salesforce, one of the largest stands there, and whose blurb on the Expo website explained: “’s social and mobile cloud technologies enable companies to transform into customer companies by connecting with their customers, employees, partners and products in entirely new ways. Based on’s real-time, multitenant architecture, the company’s apps and platform revolutionize the way companies sell, service, market and innovate.” It would have been nice to understand in detail how they felt they could revolutionize the NHS.

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  1. Despite waffle, we were the strategic partner on their stand, showing our Social Care Platform, which connects everyone in the adult social care value chain – from hospital release to timely provision and ongoing management of care – at home or in a care home.

    Happy to tell you/show you more.

  2. Yes please Ian – I’d greatly welcome finding out more. The failure to join up hospital release to management of care is one of the principal causes of older people spending longer in hospital than necessary, so sorting that will indeed revolutionise a part of the NHS.

  3. Hi Charles, Many apologies for the delay on sending your AliveInsights report from the AliveCor demo at NHs Expo. I have sent it just now and hope that you find it useful. Anyone else not received their free report can email me directly
    Thanks, Francis

  4. Charles, as you say in your article, the general level of innovation on show was relatively low this year. That is reflected quite well by a recent article in the Guardian:
    However, I think in some ways, the converse is also true, there are too many isolated pockets of innovation and too many organisations now ‘doing innovation’ Apart from individual Trusts, there are the AHSNs, NHS England, NHS IQ to name the major ones. On a number of the talks I went to, there were significant overlaps with what I had already heard was happening elsewhere….makes me remember with fondness the principles for Sir Muir Gray’s initiative around ‘do once and share’. I wish we could ‘innovate in one domain and share’

  5. Many thanks for your comment Clive. Your comment is exactly why the dallas programme decided to establish DHACA, so do please join at DHACA is dedicated not only both to making it as easy as possible to know what else is being developed and also to encouraging developers to produce applications that are interoperable, to make the sharing as easy as possible.