Welsh Health Hack 2019
Recently I, along with my Box UK colleague Alex Farr, attended a Welsh Health Hack event at the Life Sciences Hub in Cardiff. Now in its third year, it’s an event that brings digital and tech specialists together with healthcare professionals to understand common challenges and pain points within the sector, and work to create viable solutions.
It was an interesting and enlightening experience, particularly as we’re all of us potential users of these kinds of services - meaning it’s in our interest to apply our specific skills to help improve them.
The Welsh Health Hack is a collaboration between numerous healthcare institutions and public sector bodies, and Day 1 kicked off with speeches from some of those involved with the initiative.
First up was a welcome from Siôn Charles, Deputy Director of the Bevan Commission, Wales’ leading health and care think tank that provides funding and support in developing solutions conceived at the hack. As MC of the event, Siôn remained on hand throughout the two days, wearing a pink cowboy hat to ensure he could be easily found when needed!
An introduction from Cari-Anne Quinn, CEO of the Life Sciences Hub followed, before Vaughan Gething AM, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services spoke about the importance of the work being done in this sector, and the potential impact of the hack.
It was also interesting to hear from the team behind the BAPS app, one of last year’s winning concepts. Aimed at supporting patients through physiotherapy following breast or axilla surgery, the app was officially launched in January, and is helping generate tens of thousands of pounds of savings. It was great to see how the outputs of these hacks can make a real difference to people across Wales.
Donna from the BAPS team also provided some useful advice from the teams around knowing your audience, considering the voice of the patient and - crucially - understanding the why of your solution, before thinking about the how.
Finding a project
It was then time for the pitches to begin in earnest, and with 16 different challenges submitted from different healthcare services, educational institutions and individuals there was a huge amount of variety on offer. Pitches covered everything to introducing Virtual Reality (VR) into healthcare education and using advanced imaging techniques to improve the quality of clinical information, to improving day-to-day workflows and care pathways (the journeys that a patient takes as they interact with various parts of the health service).
Tech providers such as us were then invited to provide a short introduction around what we did and our particular areas of expertise, to aid matching with the most appropriate pitches/challenges. There were several suppliers who were well-suited to some of the more experimental briefs, but our own particular interests and skillset found us gravitate towards those that focused on process improvement and data-sharing; something we have extensive experience with here at Box UK.
There were a number of potential projects in this area, but we only had the time to commit to one. In the end, we were attracted to a brief presented by Andrew Adedeji, a junior doctor with an idea to improve the handover of inpatient ward round notes.
Being able to share information between different clinicians and departments is vital to the successful delivery of patient care pathways, yet finding an efficient and effective means of doing so continues to prove challenging. Notes are still often handwritten and may be the only copy, with no central source of patient information; as a result, finding a solution to these issues is a topic that comes up again and again during hack events.
As a junior doctor, Andrew’s knowledge of the process and the key pain points was extensive, so we worked closely with him over the two days to translate this insight into a proof-of-concept for a handover app, even creating an interactive prototype to demonstrate how the process would work.
The afternoon of the second day was reserved for teams to present their concepts to the panel of judges, who would then choose which would receive funding to be developed further. While our handover app wasn’t selected as one of the winners it did receive impressive feedback from the judges, who highlighted its focus on minimising cost and complexity by reducing the number of integration points, and its potential to help individual teams manage what is a critical process within the healthcare sector.
Hacking the healthcare sector
All in all, our experience of the Welsh Health Hack was an extremely positive one, and it’s clear to see the benefits of events such as these. With so many disparate teams, systems and functions working together in the health sector it’s great to be able to bring together a wide range of skillsets to drive real improvements to processes and outcomes.
As technical specialists, it’s been particularly exciting to see how our skills can help bring ideas to life, and understand the potential for technology to impact how the healthcare sector works, whether this is through the delivery of innovative new services, or the optimisation of the fundamental processes that sit at the heart of all care delivery.
I also personally found it interesting to see how many of the proposed solutions have the potential, if successful, to be applied to other teams, use cases and care pathways. Ultimately, the work started here could make a big difference not just in Wales, but across the whole UK, and even globally.
As for the work we’ve done with Andrew, we’re hugely proud of the solution produced at the hack, and are actively looking into ways we can develop this further, to generate lasting results from an original and creative idea.