Enthusiasm for digital change must be focused on outcomes and the things that matter to patients, urged national leaders from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, in this morning’s keynote session on the Digital Transformation Stage at Rewired 2023.

A “must have shiny things” approach to digital transformation in healthcare is a huge problem, suggested Rhidian Hurle, chief clinical information officer, Wales and medical director, Digital Health and Care Wales. Hurle emphasised the need to “invest sensibly” and “maximise” results by examining “what you do and why you do it”.

Work is underway in Northern Ireland to “build a better view” of the real benefits to citizens from digital transformation, revealed Dan West, chief digital information officer, Health and Care in Northern Ireland.

He said digital programmes should deliver improvements that matter to people, such as equity in services and making it easier to see their GP.

In Scotland, a national approach is being developed to identify changes that make a difference and implement them at scale. Stephen Gallagher, director of digital health and care, Scottish Government, said there was a need to “focus” the “insatiable” enthusiasm for change where it would be most effective.

Gallagher suggested that the great “step-change” in the use of digital during the pandemic had left a “everything, everywhere, all at once” attitude to change.

Hurle urged listeners to seek out in-person opportunities to share ideas and learn from others’ experiences: “When you get in the room and eyeball people, the barriers disappear. This is one of the best conferences to go to – because you get to hear what people are doing.”

In the Q&A session, a GP expressed concern that digital transformation was being designed “without real engagement with consumers”.

The panel agreed that more needs to be done to involve the public in transformation and co-design programmes. “I think we’re really bad at this,” said West, who added that the progress that had been made during the pandemic was at risk of being lost.  He called for a conscious effort to resist “snapping back into old behaviours”.

“We need to take the population with us,” said the chair Helen Balsdon, acting chief nursing information officer, NHS England.