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Meet the Digital Leader: Helen Northmore – Programme Delivery Manager, Digital Health Ecosystem Wales

Helen Northmore, Programme Delivery Manager at Digital Health Ecosystem Wales, gives us her insight into the adoption of digital healthcare technology such as patients managing their health online and the emergence of ‘Digital Native’ doctors.

How long have you been involved in digital health/inclusion and what positions have you held?

I joined the Digital Health Ecosystem Wales (DHEW) as Programme Delivery Manager in March 2018. My previous roles had been in other sectors in project management, stakeholder engagement, policy and business development which are all key skills in this role. My job here is to bring together industry, academia, NHS and social care providers to accelerate the adoption of digital technology in healthcare in Wales.

What has been your proudest moment while in the sector?

Last week I organised two workshops to identify how we can make it easier and faster to adopt digital healthcare technology – one on evaluation and one on procurement. The amount of interest, the level of discussion, the willingness from all parties to honestly and frankly discuss the barriers and challenges was so inspiring. Both workshops have resulted in the development of working groups to identify actions and recommendations on how to improve process and systems. The proudest moment for me won’t be until these actions are implemented, but I have real satisfaction that this process will have a real impact.

In your view, what is the key to being a good Digital Leader?

I think that a good Digital Leader isn’t about technical skill or knowledge, it’s about being comfortable with change, with pace, with uncertainty and risk. Good leadership skills, building strong empowered teams, is even more vital in digital with the fast pace of change. Doing new things or doing things with new technology carries more uncertainty and risk, and a good Digital Leader understands and balances risk and uncertainty against the opportunity for transformation. Finally, a good Digital Leader focusses not on what the technology can do, but what the needs or the business or project or process are – it’s not about how to digitise a paper process but what information is needed and who needs to see it so that the right solution is developed.

What do you think will be the biggest changes in digital health and/or inclusion in the coming years?

We are starting to see a big cultural shift within healthcare – the first ‘Digital Native’ doctors are on the wards and in GP practices now. Their level of expectation on what could/should be in place to help them do their job is much higher. And patient expectations are equally high – many people want to be able to manage their health online. The NHS is trying to catch up to those expectations and I think that we will see massive progress in the next couple of years. However, that progress is taking a lot of behind the scenes work, piecing together 40 years of legacy software and equipment, so it seems like we are far behind. The next few years are going to see a radical transformation in how we can access healthcare services, see and share our information and be better empowered to look after ourselves.

In your view what are the key principals of effective digital health and/or inclusion?

We often talk about digital health like it’s a product or a thing, when in reality it’s about how data can be used to develop new products or treatments, how data can help tailor information or treatment to your needs better and how data can be used to better plan and deliver healthcare services. Sharing data and empowering clinicians and patients in using data is essential – we have the opportunity to develop a user-centred approach to healthcare and just transposing our existing processes and cultures to a digital medium would be a huge missed opportunity.

To find out more about the Digital Health Ecosystem Wales (DHEW) visit the website at