Innovating at the edge – Bridging the gap by connecting the dots

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. Steve Jobs, 2005

A great quote which sums up my journey in healthcare to date and sense of the unknown as one of the pioneers in the first cohort NHS Digital Academy. Never one to take the easy route, I have worked in a range of clinical specialities, education and innovation always looking for ways to improve the patient experience.

This has led to developing the first multi-award winning skincare range for the NHS My Trusty sold worldwide with all profits going back into patient care at Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust (SFT). My vision for the brand was based on my interest in natural/ ethical beauty products, aromatherapy knowledge and experience of plastic surgery nursing.  Through sharing my experience I want to inspire others to innovate in healthcare by example, personal unique knowledge and discovering their individual why?; I recommend Simon Sinek’s presentation for further guidance on identifying it.

The motivation behind my application

It is a wonderful opportunity to be part of the first cohort of The NHS Digital Academy.  I am passionate about digital health and how this can drive transformational change both nationally and locally.  My motivation for applying was to highlight digital work happening in clinical care, share knowledge and the reality of innovating at the edge as a nurse.

Having worked for NHS England in the Horizons team I understand how using digital technology can enable citizens to collaborate on change projects such as the People’s Transformathon and also use crowdsourcing to access insight and data.  Social media can support transformation and I developed a webinar covering this topic with clinicians, patients in the UK and Symplur USA which showcased how data can be used and knowledge shared.

As a clinician and a patient with long-term conditions, I bring a range of skillset, curiosity and understanding to the digital health agenda that can be used to inform the national roadmap and its translation across the health sector.  How much more can we achieve if we start improving patient care by design thinking, co-production and digital technologies?

Innovating at the edge

My organisation is a small district hospital with a reputation for innovation and currently in the spotlight as part of an international incident.  From a digital health perspective, my challenge is to develop a new digital platform that will enhance engagement, provide a microsite for apps and onboard other technologies that will improve the patient/clinician experience.  This will be the project developed with the NHS Digital Academy.  I will share more on this blogging throughout the year as we proceed in real time with the cope defined.

Currently part of the Department of Health Scan4Safety demonstrator site team at Salisbury delivering clinical engagement and building a portfolio of evidence based on data from clinical audits. This project enables the organisation to scan via barcodes on patient ID bands capture clinical observation data and track implantable devices.  As part of the digital academy my aim is to share narratives from these projects and show the role nurses can play as part of a multi-disciplinary team.  A suite of webinars has been produced on progress with the Scan4Safety project at Salisbury hospital and an overview with data can be viewed on the positive patient ID aspect here.

Another aspect of my work has been to develop and support innovators bring their products to market. We have an innovation portfolio which includes genetics, cleft palate, infusion devices and a range of services.  As an innovator, I know how difficult it is to bring a product to market and therefore have developed an approach based on findings from my qualitative research study to support fellow innovators called Spark.Pivot.Sprint®.  This research will be shared at Stanford University MedX in April this year via a presentation and will be used to create a digital platform to support healthcare innovators.

Shaping the future

The Digital Academy promises to be an exciting adventure and we are starting to receive more details on the modules and the first connection dates. As pioneers in the first group, we will be shaping the programme for those that will follow.  The academy pulls together collaborative knowledge from across the world and passionate people who believe in a digital transformation in Healthcare. It is fantastic to be a small part of this mission.

For anyone hoping to be part of the next cohort, my advice would be to believe in yourself and the diverse strengths you will bring to the academy.  Be authentic, share your passion and just apply! We need the NHS Digital Academy to really represent the NHS today.  Individuals, who can collaborate across sectors, undertake true co-production with citizens and recognise the assets in our community.


To follow my journey at the NHS Digital Academy and see the projects I will be working on 2018 – 2019 follow my blog Alchemy Connections, which also has a library of resources for innovators.  There will be an opportunity to be a virtual participant via twitter during my presentation at Stanford MedX on the 29th April 2018, I aim to tweet the presentation via SlideShare and you can follow the live tweets #MedX.  Finally, if you have any questions or to follow up on any of my projects, please contact me through my twitter @CarolLRead or LinkedIn accounts.  Keep in touch!

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