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I am certainly not averse to trying new things. The fast pace of innovation can be such a thrill to deliberate, with a real sense of progress and delight in what we might offer in preventing, predicting and treating patients.

The artwork below is a piece by award winning wildlife and landscape photographer Dorin Bofan, a real dreamer who regularly ventures into the unknown, and with this piece Adrift, he really does capture so much of that journey into unchartered waters.

I have worked alongside and learnt from a host of clinical teams, each with its own unique personality and sense of membership. Beyond a job title to identify who I am, or a catalogue of what it is that I do, I hold a core belief that access to adequate food and water is a basic human right, and this is why I do what I do.

Articulating my why translated ambitions in disease-related-malnutrition, artificial feeding and enhanced recovery pathways, into an invitation. I chose to build partnerships to amplify a shared purpose, and an innate desire to find common ground is something I took into my armoury as I entered the world of improvement science.

“I chose to build partnerships to amplify a shared purpose, and an innate desire to find common ground is something I took into my armoury as I entered the world of improvement science”

Getting uncomfortable

The story of Michael Seres is one that really stuck with me. Seres Iives with Crohn’s disease and was the eleventh ever recipient of a small bowel transplant; a ground breaking surgical advancement for this incurable disease. He had a strong sense of what quality of life meant to him, something he has become well-renowned for.

As part of his surgical care plan, Seres was fitted with a stoma bag and subsequently struggled with over-spilling bags after surgery. This frustration led him to order a few parts online and build a device to indicate when his stoma bag was ready to be emptied. And with that, he created a sensor technology for ostomy patients. Learning of this story, I was stunned. For the very first time I felt really uncomfortable, and for all of the right reasons.

 “For the very first time I felt really uncomfortable, and for all of the right reasons”

Michael West, Head of Thought Leadership at the King’s Fund, often talks about listening with fascination, a beautiful description of something that naturally accompanies penetrating curiosity. Despite championing a multi-professional and holistic approach to caring for patients throughout the course of my career, I feared that I had failed to really hear what was being said by my patients. The penny dropped. I saw the co-design stance of digital health technologies and patient partnerships, and in a way that I had never seen them before.

Venturing into the unknown

Innovation does not equal technology. I think this deserves repeating – innovation does not equal technology. Innovation is deep rooted in behaviours, with technology as a vehicle to drive that behaviour. As I embarked on an adventure into the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), I discovered emerging accelerator programmes seeking to bring digital health technologies into mainstream conversation. It was a joy to be a part of – to unravel the art of the possible and join a catalyst to drive the wider digital health economy.

“It was a joy to be a part of – to unravel the art of the possible and join a catalyst to drive the wider digital health economy”

There is a real craft in building the will to integrate innovative approaches to care, often seen as outside of, or an adjunct to, core business. There is so much to learn from Genomics England and our colleagues in design. In its project, Socialising the Genome, Julian Borra, Global Creative Strategist, articulates beautifully: “A chasm exists between the world of academia and the sciences and that of the everyday person in the street.  There needs to be a process of acclimatisation when travelling between one and the other”.

Prioritising partnership

I would consider myself as a little more of a risk taker than average, curious enough to cross boundaries, seeking to improve healthcare one experiment at a time. I was grounded by improvement methodology as I fostered new partnerships, interlacing quality improvement with traditional approaches to technical deployment.

I asked often and repeatedly about the local context of the biggest NHS problems. How might we measure this change as an improvement? How have you involved staff and patients? This opened channels of thought beyond what a technology might be able to offer in all its excellence, to better embrace a co-produced, iterative solution to addressing problems as they actually exist.

In a recent publication, Against the Odds, the Health Foundation and Innovation Unit showcase 10 innovations that have scaled across the NHS. There is a clear and consistent call to introduce meaning and relevance to innovation through boots on the ground and building a case for change that is compelling to the audience.

“This is why perhaps there may be no better time to prioritise partnerships across non-traditional working boundaries in health and social care”

It is commonplace to contend with complex patients characterised by overlapping co-morbidities that command a number of specialists to synchronise at any given time. This is why perhaps there may be no better time to prioritise partnerships across non-traditional working boundaries in health and social care.

In my next blog I look forward to unravelling the artistry of storytelling to share ideas worth spreading through my experiences of TEDxNHS 2017, Inspired by People.

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