Digital Health Networks, the collaboration and best practice community of NHS IT leaders, has welcomed its 5000th member.

The milestone was reached by Minal Patel, who is the associate director of digital transformation at The Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Minal told Digital Health News that she wanted to join the vibrant community of NHS IT leaders, having heard about it through colleagues and social media.

“For me, networking is all about talking to people in a similar role, I tend to learn a lot from what other trusts have done, how they have managed to overcome some of the challenges,” she said.

“But also, I also like to learn about what not to do and the things to look out for in terms of what is working best. In particular, how other trusts have managed to improve clinical adoption, especially with the clinicians on board with them driving the change rather than them saying ‘IT is doing it to us’.”

Digital Health Networks is an independent grass-roots community of NHS IT and digital health leaders and has grown organically from the ground up. The community was launched in 2003, born out of the successful CCIO campaign led by EHI (predecessor to Digital Health).

The Network is dedicated to sharing best practice and collaboration, connecting members through an online community, regional events and webinars along with the annual Summer Schools and the Rewired Leadership Summit.

The Summer School has gone from just 30 in its first edition in 2003 to over 1200 people registered for the Virtual Summer School on 23-24 July.

Jon Hoeksma, editor-in-chief at Digital Health, said: “Helping bring together so many talented NHS IT leaders across the NHS is a real pleasure and privilege.  When we began there were no CCIOs in the country, the Network has helped create a new profession and give a voice and identity to NHS IT leaders across the country.”

“We’ve really come a long way,” added Dr Marcus Baw who manages the online community.

“In 2005 when we migrated the Network from Google Groups to Discourse we had just 250 members, now its 5,000.”

Prof Joe McDonald, former chair of the CCIO Network, said in a tweet: “Well done to everyone in this Network who have made them such a success.”

Another member, Mandy Griffin, who is CIO and managing director of the The Health Informatics Service (THIS) at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, said the Networks were “really important” to her adding it was a “great community”.

“I think with more members, there will be more conversation, so to the new members, welcome,” she added.

Chair of the CIO Network, Ade Byrne, also posted his congratulations via a video on Twitter.

First begun for NHS CCIOs and CIOs, the Networks now covers a wide range of digital health leaders from different parts of the health care system, with a nursing information officer, a digital health and social care transformation lead and a consultant in emergency medicine all joining at the same time as Minal.

For Minal, learning from other people from different backgrounds can help her shape the IT strategy at her own trust.

“I think some of the benefits I get through networking and through meeting people on forums such as this one, is it can help me understand how I can change the strategy at my own trust,” she said.

“There are trusts that are behind us and there are trusts that are way ahead of us, and what I really get from networking the most is working with people on a like minded challenge, shaping that into a language and a strategy that we can deliver at Hillingdon.”

Membership to the Networks is open to anyone with an interest in health technology, digital health or clinical informatics.

To request access please complete our sign-up form which can be found here.