Reflections from HC2012

On the back of a bad week for the British economy where real growth is looking like a distant prospect with the news of double dip recession, it was nice to see lots of familiar faces (both NHS as well as suppliers) with an optimistic outlook at HC2012. I had many interesting conversations, some around disruptive innovations and some focused on business models, some about recent procurement decisions, all looking forward to the opportunity to participate in the much talked about change in the NHS.

The conference agenda was certainly interesting with a good mix of speakers and topics covering the national policy through to clinical engagement.

Jim Easton’s keynote was informative, his call for ‘Informatics to be a frontline service driving the integration’ and ‘making the information flow and empowering the people’ is welcome news for the informatics community. Further endorsement of this will be the clarity and commitment of some money for frontline IT on the back of the upcoming and eagerly anticipated Information Strategy. What is worrying is, there were repeated messages in his speech about budget squeeze; ‘the current efficiency savings being implemented across the NHS are a dress rehearsal for the next 20 years’, ‘it is going to get harder as we go on, we know we did the easier things first and if you look at the Chancellor’s budget, deep structural change is going to be with us for the next decade’.

For those that missed it, Tim Straughan, chief executive of the NHS Information Centre’s keynote made some predictions on the role of NHSIC in connecting up the primary and secondary care data and its new powers from 2013. He made an interesting reference to being allowed to handle the patient identifiable data, which was one of the key sticking points when the NHS reform bill was being passed. It will be interesting to see how the much talked about Open Data will enable the supplier community to commercialise some of this data?

I noticed there was still a lot of speculation about life after the National Programme and the role of the central agencies is still less clear in practice, particularly amongst the suppliers and NHS community.

I also found the announcement around the coming together of HIMSS Analytics Europe and BCS to bring the EMR adoption model to UK hospitals in order to allow the UK to benchmark itself against the rest of the world an interesting one, although, I would have liked to have seen more debate and engagement on the model at the conference. Perhaps this is only the beginning and more will be coming?

The question I was looking to get answered was around how SME’s are doing. Do they feel more engaged? Are they seeing more business opportunities? Is the landscape getting better for them? Though they certainly see improved engagement, informal conversations indicate that it is still the game of big boys. We all know that SME sector is important to the British economic recovery, it is equally important to keep the innovation going in the NHS and to the recovery of the NHS IT market.

Someone at the conference said, ‘a medal should go to Mike Sinclair for organising HC2012, and engaging the SME sector.’ I will vote for that and hope that enough is being done to keep the brand alive for years to come! More engagement from all stakeholders and in particular SME suppliers and NHS decision makers will be the key to its continued success. HC used to be a conference that inspired; sadly I didn’t get inspired this year!

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