A leading health chief wants to see people’s health monitored by technology in the same way that new cars record data on a vehicle’s performance.

Declan Hadley is the digital health lead for Healthier Lancashire & South Cumbria and was speaking at BusinessCloud’s HealthTech event ‘Can Tech Save the NHS?’

Nearly 80 people attended the event at Chorley Council, which heard from 13 speakers from as far afield as London.

Hadley said people can open a bank account or book a holiday at the click of a button but the health sector had a lot of catching up to do compared to the way data is collected from modern cars.

“When you take a car into the garage to be serviced the technician knows everything about the car,” he said. “Every mile, every day that it travels is monitored.

"Wouldn’t it be good if we had a better system that monitored you proactively all the time, spotting any problems and intervening really quickly, regardless of where you went?

“The car is monitoring itself. The health sector could learn a lot from other industries in how we give people what they want and we use technology to improve people’s lives.”

Hadley said any tech solutions had to be based on what the public actually needed.

“If you take how we shop online, and look at companies like Amazon, they really spend a lot of their time understanding what their customers really want, but in health it's different,” he explained.

“We really need to understand what the people of Lancashire and South Cumbria want from digital systems and we need to help them articulate those needs, get them engaged in designing the solutions for them to use.”

The health chief also said he wants to see data shared better by health organisations. “I'm a real advocate on how we can bring together our systems and our information to ensure that when you go into hospital, those professionals have all they need at hand to provide the best care,” he said.

Lydia Yarlott was working as a junior doctor when she realised the technology being used by staff to communicate wasn’t fit for purpose so she launched her own tech solution.

“I started as a junior doctor in 2015 and sometimes when you come at something for the first time you can see things with fresh eyes,” she explained.  

“Having come from a generation that does pretty much everything online from your pocket, moving to a system where we were forced to communicate with colleagues using a radio pager system did seem very archaic.

“It created a whole host of delays and inefficiencies for patients - I would go as far as saying it could be quite dangerous when you weren't able to get hold of the person you needed to get hold of, and that was very lonely and frustrating feeling.”

Yarlott, who still works as a paediatrician, created the internal NHS communication app Forward Health, which builds a phonebook of all healthcare staff signed up across the country, allowing staff to contact someone in a different department quickly.

London-based Forward Health secured almost $4 million investment as it plans to continue to grow its team of 20 in London. The app currently has 10,000 people signed up over six hospitals.

She added: “We're seeing a lot of doctors and nurses leaving the system which is really sad because we just don't have enough of them. That's for a whole host of reasons but it’s often that feeling of not having autonomy at work, having legacy systems implemented on you that don't actually help you.

"We aim to work very closely with our users to understand what their needs are and how to make our platform better for them.”

Rosemary Kay, director of Liverpool-based eHealth Cluster is also overseeing the Liverpool 5G project.

She said the NHS couldn’t do it on their own and pointed out that in Liverpool  80 per cent of social care is funded by the local authority. She said in the borough of Kensington alone there are 2,500 home visits a week.

“Typically people go into hospital when they're not well, but what we've got to look at is reducing that demand on hospitals and can we keep people in their homes for longer?” she asked.

“That means working really closely with social care services and other services out there, so as the cluster we work across technology, health and social care.

“We've got healthcare devices where people can be discharged from hospital sooner and can be monitored by clinicians, we've also got devices used in social care that help people administer their own medication and help them stay at home longer.

“It's the quality of life, no one likes going into hospital, and people want to stay at home, so if we can use that technology to help people stay at home for longer, that will decrease the demand on the NHS.”

Serial entrepreneur Dr Aalok Y Shukla, co-founder of Straight Teeth Direct, told the audience how dentistry is also moving into the digital world.

Customers go online and send images of their teeth to the company, which creates 3D models of the patient’s teeth. These are used to make retainers and moulds which are sent direct to the patients.

He said: “I think you can rethink everything, at the core of it there's a person at home that wants to live as well as possible and be as healthy as possible.

“So the more you can embrace remote non-invasive diagnostic procedures, I think a move towards a home-based model with more specialties which are interrelated can create a much healthier outcome for everyone in a more cost effective way.”

Other speakers included Cat Jones, business analyst, Apadmi; Jonathan Burr, director of operations, Howz; Dr Matt Orr; James Batchelor, CEO Alertacall; Jeremy Coates, CEO Magma Digital; Rory Cameron, co-founder Gendius; Chris Chapman, digital ecosystems lead, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust; Jonathan Elvidge, co-founder Moodbeam; and Mark Lester, director (Business, Development & Growth) Chorley Council.

The event was run in partnership with Chorley Council and Healthier Lancashire & South Cumbria.