How health tech companies are responding to COVID-19

Written by Tony Bowden, member of the techUK Health & Social Care Council, Partner & Chair at the IT Health Partnership and Chief Executive Officer at Helicon Health. These are Tony’s personal views and experiences.   


Last week seemed more like a month to me. I have that curious feeling after being very busy getting things done quickly and seeing everyone pulling in the same direction. And yet, I feel somehow guilty that I am so busy, when so many others, including members of my family, have had their work cut off completely. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. 

As Partner at The IT Health Partnership, a techUK member supporting client vendors like InTouch Health, and Chief Executive at Helicon Health, I’ve been working around the clock with customers and colleagues to see how technology can support efforts to cope with the threats posed by COVID-19 since the new coronavirus was discovered late last year.

Through the NHS’ Global Digital Exemplar programme and working with clients in the NHS, we have been supporting InTouch Health in scaling up the use of robots, related virtualisation and telehealth technologies in the acute and high-acuity settings. What does that mean in practice? It’s working with leaders of gold command to equip demonstration centres, so that senior doctors can come and see technologies in operation and work through the logistics and processes that will enable bunkered working, remote visiting for those with loved ones in hospital and virtual consultant collaboration and MDT (multi-disciplinary team) reviews. It will also facilitate home working for quarantined health professionals in order to help them continue to play their part in fighting the pandemic.

One of the core technologies part of virtual care is already used by six of the 10 hospitals dubbed by Newsweek as being the best in the world. This follows an international programme of workshops sharing use cases, with the most recent being virtualisation and telehealth in paediatric neonatal intensive care units within the Mayo Clinic in the US.

At the same time, I am helping to establish supply chains with a series of vendors to provide the necessary equipment for the Nightingale Hospitals set up by the military, and was asked to examine the veracity of an offer of three million COVID-19 testing kits. Another project that kicked off last week involves a programme of work with a cutting-edge analytics company to provide state-of-the-art visualisation and tracing capabilities.

I am delighted by the sheer determination to deliver solutions that scale and work seamlessly within the NHS and suppliers, all working as one, with complete trust and immediate action in a very agile and responsive manner. I deeply hope that this mode of working can become the new normal – but, of course, not in these circumstances.

In times like these, it’s safe to say that the power of community cannot be understated. In the first week of isolation, I enjoyed the feeling of solidarity in adversity on our street and across our neighbourhoods in London and Cornwall, and when we joined the nation in expressing our gratitude for NHS staff. I’ve also been impressed by the responsible attitude of the younger members of our family, and joined what is likely to be the first of many virtual dinner parties.

But it is clear that the fight is far from being over. We need to work together, follow the Government’s guidelines and help protect the NHS. Only by doing so will we be able to bring an end to the crisis.

  • Leontina Postelnicu

    Leontina Postelnicu

    Programme Manager | Health and Social Care

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