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'The key is coordination' – How techUK is helping the health tech sector integrate during COVID-19

Under normal circumstances, Ben Moody’s role as associate director of health and local public services entails connecting the NHS and public services, such as councils and devolved authorities, with local tech companies, as well as managing a programme focused on justice and emergency services. While head of health and social care, techUK became NHS Digital’s market engagement partner, covering everything from interoperability and cybersecurity to GP IT. In this role, techUK started hosting industry events, bridging the gap between NHS Digital and suppliers by introducing the NHS to the technology on the market and helping them inform their procurement decisions. In 2019, they helped NHSX to launch as the main national policy setting body for digital health transformation.

This close collaboration that Moody has fostered has paved the way for the new trajectory that the work of techUK has taken since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Respond – Adapt – Recover

“Our mantra at techUK is ‘Respond – Adapt – Recover’. We’re still responding at the moment, and will be for some time,” says Moody. CEO of techUK Julian David attended a roundtable with the Prime Minister, Matthew Gould, Dr Simon Eccles and others from the NHS and NHSX (“when such things were just about allowed”) as a representative of the tech sector alongside a number of companies. Here, they outlined the country’s urgent technology needs, which were then fed back to techUK’s members. “We’ve essentially been triaging responses to NHSX ever since,” Moody says.

A growing number of tech companies are coming forward with offers of help. At techUK, the organisation is supporting an initiative launched by a coalition of current and former NHS CIOs to help “bring the right tech to the right place”, called Tech4CV19.

“At the end of the day, we’re championing technology,” Moody says. Whether that is through partnership facilitations, supporting the increased strain felt by many tech companies or simply highlighting the good work that’s going on.

No more ‘business-as-usual’

But what will life be like for health tech after the storm has passed? “I don’t want to talk about the ‘opportunities’ that this presents because we are still in the midst of a very serious pandemic,” asserts Moody. He does acknowledge, however, that there will be a distinct change in how healthcare functions, with “a reluctance to go back to ‘business-as-usual’.”

“Really the question is how do we adapt and how do we recover,” Moody asks. We could see improvements in the telehealth space, “where there’s demand and where it’s appropriate, of whatever sort that may be,”  he continues. Moody has witnessed real progress in the large-scale utilisation of health tech in recent weeks. “It’s forced some bodies that haven’t worked well in the past to work together in a very urgent manner.”

Although the urgency may wane, the health sector will not be able to ignore the integral place that tech now holds in it. As experts and organisations around the world work to put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be interesting to see where the role of digital health will go in the future.

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