People power is the secret weapon to getting the NHS to embrace technology.

That was the message at BusinessCloud’s Transforming Healthcare through Technology conference on Wednesday, which was attended by 130 people.

Health and tech experts came from across the country to give examples of how technology had cut waiting times; reduced hospital stays; and saved lives but stressed the key to real change was in the hands of the people who use it.

Declan Hadley, digital health lead for Lancashire and South Cumbria Change Programme, believes change in the NHS will be driven by people.

He said: “I’m very optimistic about the future, about where we are and that desire to move things forward.

“And I really believe that what’s going to drive technology in the NHS is not so much the workforce, but citizens – the people.

“For a large proportion of the population, technology such as Fitbits and other devices are getting so much more accessible that people are doing it themselves, and I think that’s a really good thing.”

SOCIAL MEDIA STATS
• Tweets about the conference were viewed by Twitter users 247,558 times and almost 115,000 accounts were reached
• 53 experts and healthcare professionals contributed to a heated online debate
• More than 500 Twitter users watched a live video stream of the event on Periscope

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health and wellbeing for Lancashire County Council, says things must change from the bottom up, while frontline practitioners need to embrace technology as part of delivering care and not just an “add-on gimmick”.

He added: “There has got to be some sort of a movement within our public actually demanding things, because the lifestyles they’re living are so busy a lot of people don’t have the time – especially if they are really well – to seek help.

“So there’s got to be a movement of people actually wanting to seek help through better technology.”

Currently, around only two per cent of people engage with health and care services digitally, through technology such as health apps.

Ali Moiyed, founder of Aerobit Health, spoke about the launch of his smart inhaler for asthma sufferers, which monitors use and collects data.

He believes these are not the people the NHS needs to target. He said the tech-shy majority need to embrace the future, take control of their health and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions.

Moiyed added: “The people needed are the people who won’t engage with technology. The people we already have the information from are the people we don’t need.”

Dominic Cushnan, Digital & Social Innovation, Horizons Team in NHS England, said: “There needs to be more citizen engagement with healthcare. People must take part in the overall conversation of how they want their health service to look and operate.”

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Also speaking at BusinessCloud’s event was transplant registrar Pankaj Chandak, of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, London.

He’d come straight to Lancashire from speaking at a conference in Shanghai and described how pioneering technology saved the life of three-year-old Lucy Boucher.

At just four months, the youngster from Northern Ireland suffered heart failure which starved her kidneys of oxygen, and later became the first to undergo an adult kidney transplant using 3D printing.

Surgeons made detailed models of her father’s kidney and Lucy's abdomen, mapping out the procedure with precision, minimising risks to the child’s life.

The operation, performed in November 2015, was a success and father and daughter are now in remission.

After a number of successful operations, the method is now being used to treat prostate cancer patients.

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The conference was sponsored by Healthier Lancashire & South Cumbria and leading private equity firm NorthEdge.