The new head of Telstra Health UK has said he won’t “just push paper around” when it comes to population health management.

David Sharp comes into the role as UK-based data and analytics Dr Foster is integrated into Australian telecommunication company Telstra Health – the latter acquired Dr Foster back in 2015.

Sharp has been brought in as the new lead for Telstra Health’s UK division as the Australian company looks to invest in the UK health sector.

Despite not being in the role for long (he started on 7 July 2021), the new head of Telstra Health UK is looking to hit the ground running and told Digital Health News his first mission is to find the so-called “pain point” or issues in aged care and try to fix them.

“There will be something that is creating a pain point which nobody is attending to, so my first mission is to find the pain points in aged care,” he said.

“I don’t want to be in a position where we held back and didn’t address one of the biggest challenges facing us today.

“I don’t just want to push the paper around.”

Being unique

Sharp also highlights the point of being unique when asked what he hopes to achieve at Telstra Health UK.

“The sweet spot for me is if somebody else is already doing it, I don’t want to do it,” he said.

“I do not want to compete for the oxygen that other people have got because it’s a zero sum game, it’s not making anybody better.

“So my big challenge to myself and what I am going to try and take the team through is what are the pain points in the UK that nobody else is meeting or covering.”

Before moving to head up Telstra Health UK, Sharp has led various population health management initiatives as senior vice president of Optum.

Sharp also served as NHS England’s local area director for Leicestershire and Lincolnshire as well as chief executive of NHS Derby City and NHS Derbyshire County and chief executive and finance director at NHS Nottinghamshire County.

He is hoping to bring his experience and knowledge of the UK health sector to his new role – especially when it comes to aged care, where Sharp believes there is a gap in the market.

“There’s a bit that eludes the NHS and eludes UK society and that’s aged care – there is not much connectivity between the NHS and aged care as provided by the private sector and there is also as a boundary issue between the NHS and local authorities,” he told Digital Health News.

“I think that we, as a UK society, are lacking a conversation about aged care that can be underpinned by good data and technology.

“When it comes to conversations around aged care, I think is going to take place in the same way that the ICS conversation did. So, with ICSs, five years ago people would look at you blankly and they wouldn’t know what you meant by population health and now everyone does.

“I think aged care will be a phrase that in three years’ time people will go ‘yes I get it and get what it means if I am owner operator of a small company, or a primary care provider, or an individual who is at that age, or a population health services provider’.

“I think we definitely see something in that space.”

Good quality analytics

Telstra Health is a digital health company which provides digitally-enabled integrated care and population health management initiatives that tackle a number of issues such as health inequalities.

For Sharp, being a population health management company is all about having good quality analytics and providing confidence for the customer.

“When it comes to population health, a lot of what we see is underpinned by analytics that don’t deliver benefits. Everyone buys the idea, then you look and there is poor QA [quality assurance], there’s poor production quality and the interoperability is not very good,” he said.

“You need to improve confidence, so the thing that we [Telstra Health] bring is believing in privacy, security, accuracy and the integrity of data

“If you are going to be a data and analytics company, it is not enough to be able to generate the numbers, it has got to be underpinned by data that everyone believes in.”

According to Sharp, keeping conversations surrounding population health fresh is also on his priority list at Telstra Health.

“I am worried that if the NHS stalls on any of this [population health], it will be because we will become monochrome in thought and I am just maybe trying to inject some insight, different language to the conversation,” he said.

Committing to the UK

Sharp’s appointment has been welcomed by Telstra Health’s managing director Professor Mary Foley who said the company is focusing on “committing substantial growth and investment into the UK health sector”

“At Telstra Health we have vast experience in overcoming complex health challenges and inequalities, many of which have been exacerbated due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.

“With the addition of the market-leading analytics capabilities from the Telstra Health UK team, we are uniquely positioned to meet the challenges of tomorrow’s healthcare landscape in the markets we support.”