Rachel Dunscombe has joined Visionable as chief technology officer to lead its video collaboration platform strategy.

Visionable offers collaboration tools that allow healthcare workers to share real-time audio and video feeds from any device, including live CT scans and feeds from cameras used to examine the ear or throat.

The former CIO of Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust told Digital Health News that she was joining at a pivotal moment for both Visionable and the wider video software market, as the world scrambles to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

On joining the company, Dunscombe said: “This felt like the opportune moment. Having worked on integrated care systems and services I’ve always had the conviction that we for every possible reason should be using virtual means to communicate.

“This was something I’ve always been interested in but now is very much the time when the system is ready and needs to deploy it.”

The past few weeks have seen the rapid development of new tools to respond to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Visionable’s software is already being used to connect ambulances with A&E units, to deliver consultant-led stroke care to patients out of hours, to facilitate multi-disciplinary team meetings, and to run virtual outpatient clinics and remote consultations.

Dunscombe said that her first objective would be helping to quickly scale Visionable’s technology.

“In this world at the moment, we need to make sure clinicians don’t need clinicians physically and that patients don’t need clinicians physically when they don’t need to,” she told Digital Health News.

“Infection control has brought every citizen into this realm of understanding. We’re now rapidly designing new models of care to embrace that globally. I want to keep people safe.”

Mobilising around Covid-19

A number of digital health companies have been seen to mobilise around the Covid-19 crisis to ensure that clinicians and other NHS staff can continue to operate effectively while mitigating the risk of infection.

Dunscombe said that Visionable was in the process of ramping-up its own response and credited wider industry efforts toward supporting the NHS during what she called “a very difficult and dark period”.

“What we’re very much seeing is a collaborative approach, which is great,” she said.

“The sharing that’s happening across borders from different countries is really good. This is all about Britain pulling together, and it feels quite incredible.”

Last week 11 health IT suppliers were selected to provide video consults for primary care as part of an accelerated tender to help the NHS cope with additional pressures from coronavirus.

While universally welcomed, experts have warned that switching on video consultations would require a major shake-up of an already complex NHS IT system, meanwhile others have questioned why the technology wasn’t made commonplace sooner.

“Some of that was about [the NHS’s] traditional way of commissioning services and the cadence of that,” Dunscombe offered.

“Should this have come sooner? It’s an interesting question.

“I don’t know that answering that question can be done without hindsight of coronavirus. Because when things like this happen, everything should have been done – we should have had everything.

“I’m sure there will be a huge amount of wash-up on this – what would it have been good if we had, what have we learnt, but there will be pros and cons on this. For me, it’s really encouraging that we’re starting to move people into this space.”

“It’s very encouraging that we now have a healthy marketplace in the UK that can start to serve this need.”

“If we can take some good from this, which is the evidence of what we’ve managed to implement and then use it to save and improve lives in future – then I think that is the most honourable thing we can all do from it.”

In 2017 Dunscombe became first chief executive of the NHS Digital Academy, which was set up in following the Wachter Review of NHS IT to develop a new generation of health tech leaders. She later stepped in to lead KLAS’ Global Arch Collaborative.

The NHS Digital Academy has paused its commencement of cohort 3 while the NHS tackles the Covid-19 outbreak.

Dunscombe will serve as Visionable’s CTO in a part-time capacity while also working at KLAS.

Alan Lowe, CEO of Visionable, said of her appointment: “Rachel’s experience will help Visionable to take a strategic approach to developing new features to support growth.”

“She will be taking on the strategic direction of the functionality we develop, working closely with clinicians. We have ambitious plans for growth, and we are putting together an outstanding team to deliver it; one that wants to do good and that is committed to our mission of supporting clinicians and making healthcare more accessible and equitable for everyone.”