With the Leading Healthcare Innovation Summit around the corner, we caught up with speaker Diane Deane-Bowers, Vice Chair, Patient Panel, NHS England, to find out more about a patient's perspective of digital transformation in the NHS.

I am delighted to be attending the Leading Healthcare Innovation Summit in May and to be speaking on behalf of patients who will benefit from all the exciting digital/AI technology that will be introduced throughout the NHS in the coming years. 

Currently I am the Vice-Chair of the Patient Panel of Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow. We are a group of volunteers who work alongside all hospital staff to provide the optimum patient experience for all those who attend the hospital. We are unique as we are the only such group to win the late Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and we have a significant influence on hospital policy, for which we are extremely grateful. 

We are invited to contribute to various hospital groups to improve performance and I was invited to join the Digital Senate. This group comprises many senior staff with much experience of the complex world of digitalisation and AI. At first this seemed a very odd request. I am neither a medic nor administrator and have previously been a dinosaur as regards all things technical. Surprisingly, these shortcomings have become my USPs, as I am very well placed to represent the disadvantaged, vulnerable or tech-phobic patients who are a substantial portion of the hospital attendees. 

During the last two years I am pleased to announce that I have undergone a dramatic transformation. 

Apparently, there is a name for someone like me: “Digital Immigrant”, a person who comes from one place (my complete ignorance and reluctance) to another one where they embrace the culture and passion for all things digital and mega intelligent. 

An issue for me is how we can realistically balance the drive for greater digitalisation and efficiency within the limitations of the NHS. At our Senate we have some wonderful ideas for patient service improvement but are constantly facing budget constraints. This latter issue affects me personally. I am the recipient of life transforming diabetic technology and I can provide my own medical treatment outside a hospital for 8000 hours (1 year) without any medical intervention, a huge cost saving to the NHS which is not often acknowledged. There are numerous ethical and moral issues surrounding hospital technology which are difficult to address. Many patients who are eligible for technology are not receiving it due to staff shortages or monetary shortfalls. It is still a postcode lottery despite a previous Health Secretary saying provision must be standardised nationally. This situation actually places a burden of guilt on the “lucky” few patients who do receive it. We are conscious of our drain on the NHS and must ensure we use our devices with due diligence. We also have to accept that many other patients suffer physical, life-limiting damage because they receive minimal medical care and support and have no access to technology. 

I believe LHIS will be a very interesting conference for all attendees and I am truly thankful for the privilege it offers me as a patient representative. Not only do I expect it to teach me a great deal, but I hope to pass on this knowledge to the hospital and the wider community. 

The Patient Panel is determined to assist the hospital in its communication with patients about the exciting new world of digital treatment we are entering. We have considerable experience in organising conferences for the local community and we are holding a Digital/AI Conference in late September. We are delighted to have secured Professor Richard Festenstein, a Harlow Hospital alumnus, to talk about his amazing “avatar” suits which are leading to a better understanding and treatment pathway for the debilitating condition of ataxia. 

I am hoping that at the summit in London I may meet similar medics who would be prepared to talk about their research at our conference. I also hope I might learn how to prioritise information when there is so much innovation to share. As members of the Patient Panel are all non-medics, it's a challenge for us to process relevant information, but we are expert listeners and can certainly address any concerns of patients in future communication strategies. 

As a panel we are aware of how fortunate we are to be in the forefront of hospital development and I must thank the hospital for the trust it places in us. LHIS will be so useful in providing us a detailed map for the future of NHS services and will certainly inform our strategic decisions. We fully intend to hold the hospital to account as regards its provision of appropriate technology which has so many benefits for both staff and clientele 

If you like what I say at the conference or think I can help you, please speak to me after my session. There are many problems with the NHS currently, but I remain a passionate advocate for its services and if I only help one person I shall be delighted. The post script of the summit for me is “knowledge is power” and I still have so much to learn. 

I hope all attendees have an interesting and thought- provoking day. Nationally, apparently, we are behind the curve globally with the implementation of digitalisation and AI, so perhaps each conference attendee may be able to spread their enthusiasm in their own domains to improve our collective performance. 

Apply to Attend the Leading Healthcare Innovation Summit, 23rd May

Register for your free pass to LHIS to catch Diane Deane-Bowers in the session 'Harnessing the Potential of Digital Therapeutics and Driving Patient Engagement' along with: 

  • Rishi Das-Gupta, Chief Executive, Health Innovation Network
  • Bola Akinwale, Deputy Director, National Healthcare Inequalities Improvement Programme, NHS England 
  • Rhod Joyce, Deputy Director of Innovation and Partnerships, NHS Transformation Directorate
  • Rona Moss-Morris, Head of the Department of Psychology at the Institute of Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience, King's College London

Find out more about the Summit and view the full agenda here

Apply to Attend

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