Reflections from Digital Health Rewired 2023

After the novelty and delight of 2022’s Digital Health Rewired being the first major UK in-person event since the beginning of the pandemic, this year’s Rewired came back down to earth. The focus was on the reality of difficult challenges being faced, how to take the opportunities presented by recent major reorganisations, and the impact of the move to more collaborative ways of working.

Facing up to realities and uncertainties

A lot has happened in the year since the last Digital Health Rewired event and perhaps the timing of the 2023 conference was a little early for the ramifications and opportunities to have fully emerged. The consolidation of NHS Digital, NHSX and Health Education England has brought digital transformation back into the heart of the Health Service but these momentous movements have yet to fully bed in.

Across the country frontline service providers are also busy implementing the Integrated Care Board and Integrated Care System concepts ushered in by April 2022’s Health and Care Act. The fact that this year’s event coincided exactly with the March 14-15th Junior Doctors’ strike emphasised that day to day workforce and waiting list challenges still loom large and provide the backdrop to the seismic organisational changes under way.

A move from competition to collaboration, tailored to local needs

In her keynote former Health Secretary the Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt looked at how ICBs could make collaboration between disparate organisations a reality to better reflect the needs of local communities. She used the delivery of IT at NHS Norfolk and Waveney ICB as an example of the opportunities and challenges such as the real complexity of joining up clinical and non-clinical services.

She saw partnerships as critical to meet the urgent need to transition from competition to collaboration using digital as the lever to enable change, with shared data powering effective system delivery, organised around the needs of the local patients and communities, rather than institutions driven by implementing a single national ‘best practice model’.

Difference as an opportunity

Patricia Hewitt noted that the needs, history and culture of each ICS is different but that difference should be seen as a good and an opportunity so that each ICS will be responsive to the needs of the communities it serves. This theme was echoed by Dr Paul Jones, chief digital information officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust who saw the ICS structure offering communities a way forward, but noted that there would be wide variations in digital maturity both within an ICS and between different ICSs.

Jones also reported that only half of executive teams around the country have a CIO but that such roles, even at a time of recruitment crises and a 30% squeeze on ICS budgets, are vital and that they and senior clinicians need to be included as digital transformation plans are written for ICSs. He gave the example of Leeds CNIO, Sarah Hanbridge's work, who on joining rapidly established a clear digital agenda enabling Leeds to include colleagues and bring staff with them on the digital journey.

Digital Identity Maturity Assessment – Addressing differing levels of digital maturity

Numerous presentations and case studies throughout the event made it clear that the baseline for future success is to identify and understand the different levels of digital identity maturity across all the disparate organisations within an ICS. Responding to the NHS’s What Good Looks Like framework, Imprivata developed the Digital Identity Framework 3 years ago to help organisations put together their own digital transformation roadmaps. Building on this initiative, this year at the show Imprivata launched our Digital Identity Maturity Model which helps organisations to map current tools and processes to the five stages of digital maturity. It enables Trusts to prioritise investment to achieve a unified and comprehensive programme, not only across an organisation, but throughout an ICS.

As part of the launch Imprivata is also making available our Digital Identity Maturity Assessment, which enables organisations to quickly assess the effectiveness of current digital ID strategy. The assessment provides customised recommendations for improving access, security and compliance.

Based on what we saw at the event, we think the assessment tool has come at the perfect moment to help an ICB assess the digital maturity levels across an ICS. As budgets remain tight DIMA helps to show where investments have been made and where resources need directing. Education may be required to bring staff up to speed in one area, while other parts of the ICS might have already innovated and be able to provide guidance to their new colleagues. The tool will help make effective collaboration possible and ensure that there are no digital gaps which hamper the delivery of joined up services to local communities.

To find out more about the free DIMA tool and to see how it can be used to assess digital maturity across your own organisation visit: