Meet the people who help our clients design and build innovative technology solutions to benefit their businesses as well as their customers: our subject matter experts aka SMEs. In this series, we’ll discover how they came to work in the industry and the changing role of technology in our lives. We’ll also get a glimpse into what makes them tick as people outside of work.
This April, we are focusing on healthcare, so this time on Meet the SME, we’re joined by Principal Healthcare Architect Adrian Sutherland. From his Birmingham home, he combines interest and expertise in what moves us – people and tech – to help our clients and teams develop innovative and people-centred digital healthcare solutions.
Fantastic to have you with us, Adrian. What has brought you into the tech industry and the healthcare sector?
My interest in the healthcare sector stems from the understanding that technology holds immense potential to revolutionise patient care and overall well-being. I was drawn to the idea of using my skills and knowledge to address the unique challenges faced by healthcare systems across the globe.
Throughout my career, I have been dedicated to combining my technical abilities with my passion for healthcare. Together, these have allowed me to contribute to improved patient outcomes, drive digital transformation and support the creation of a more efficient, patient-centred healthcare system.
What has been the biggest innovation since you have been working in the industry?
Since I began working in the tech industry, the biggest innovation that has stood out to me is the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). These technologies have transformed various sectors, including healthcare, by enabling the development of more efficient and personalised solutions.
In the healthcare sector, AI and ML have led to significant advancements in areas such as diagnostics, drug discovery and personalised medicine. These technologies have made it possible to analyse vast amounts of data quickly, leading to improved decision-making and better patient outcomes. Additionally, they are facilitating the creation of innovative tools and applications, like chatbots for mental health support and predictive analytics for population health management.
The impact of AI and ML on healthcare has already been profound, and I believe that they will play an even more significant role as these technologies continue to evolve.
What is the biggest challenge or opportunity you are seeing in the healthcare space right now, and what should businesses be doing to prepare for this?
As traditional boundaries between healthcare actors shift, the integration of digital health solutions and data interoperability has emerged as a significant challenge and opportunity. Seamless data exchange is crucial for a comprehensive understanding of patient health, improved care coordination and informed decision-making. Data and integration also serve as key building blocks for enabling new digital automation possibilities through AI and ML.
To address this challenge, businesses should adopt standardised data formats and protocols for smooth data exchange. Investing in secure, scalable and interoperable health IT infrastructure is also essential. By fostering collaborations and partnerships with stakeholders like hospitals, providers and technology vendors, businesses can create a connected healthcare ecosystem that delivers better patient outcomes while adapting to changing economic models.
Most importantly, better integration is necessary to provide the tools that drive patient engagement and empower patients as equal partners in their health journey.
What makes you proud of your work at Endava and why? Any specific project or situation that comes to mind?
I am proud to be a part of Endava’s investment in healthcare and our commitment to leveraging our exceptional AI and data science teams to address real healthcare challenges.
Currently, we are developing an innovative infrastructure focused on providing high-quality synthetic healthcare data to support various use cases. These include SMART on FHIR apps, clinical trial accelerators, proof-of-solution systems based on open-source tools like OpenEMR, and AI/ML automation. For instance, we are generating synthetic mammography mass measurements using conditional GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks), a deep learning technique, and comparing the classification accuracy of models trained on both real and synthetic data. It is truly exciting to be working alongside such motivated and talented colleagues on these ground-breaking projects.
On the flip side, where in your career did you experience a challenging situation around a project or technology? And what did you learn from this?
My initial experiences in healthcare informatics were in a big programme aiming to update nationally used healthcare technology with common standards. This project followed years of underfunding and sought to replace numerous locally implemented systems with varying levels of maturity.
While there were many technical challenges, particularly concerning scale, performance and resilience, the most significant obstacles revolved around business change. Achieving clinical consensus around requirements and safety and gaining acceptance for potential short-term setbacks before realising future improvements proved to be difficult. As the project took longer than expected, it lost political support, and the organisation shifted from favouring a standardised central solution to encouraging local decision-making and innovation.
One key mistake was focusing on a basic minimum viable product (MVP) that would be updated in later releases. While this approach might make sense from a pure delivery perspective, implementing and accepting a new healthcare system requires time and significant personal commitment from a diverse group of stakeholders who are already occupied with patient care. Without tangible benefits from the outset, it’s challenging to secure their buy-in and support.
I now prioritise ensuring that a new system immediately offers key benefits that users desire, which will balance the inevitable pain associated with its implementation and rollout.
Moving on to a few more personal questions… If you could go back in time and visit any historic period, where – or rather when – would you go?
If I could go back in time, I would choose Ancient Rome during Emperor Nero’s reign (54-68 AD). Having visited the remains of Nero’s Pleasure Palace in Rome, witnessing its grandeur in its prime would be fascinating!
Nero’s era was marked by political intrigue, artistic patronage and ambitious architectural projects. The Roman Empire’s prosperity allowed access to medical knowledge from regions like Greece and Egypt. Roman physicians, such as Galen, made significant contributions to healthcare, and public health initiatives like aqueducts and sanitation systems were in place.
Experiencing Nero’s Rome would offer a chance to witness the Pleasure Palace’s lavishness and observe Roman society’s healthcare practices and innovative spirit.
Who would be your 5 famous dinner party guests – real or fictional?
- Aneurin Bevan – As the founder of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), Bevan would provide valuable insights into the vision and challenges behind establishing a comprehensive healthcare system accessible to all citizens.
- Barack Obama – As the 44th President of the United States, Obama implemented the Affordable Care Act, which expanded healthcare coverage to millions of Americans. He can discuss the political and social challenges of reforming a nation’s healthcare system.
- Florence Nightingale – A trailblazer in modern nursing, Nightingale’s experiences and perspectives on patient care, sanitation and the role of nursing in healthcare would offer a fascinating historical context.
- Dr Atul Gawande – A renowned surgeon, writer and public health researcher, Dr Gawande could share his insights on a wide range of healthcare topics, from patient safety and medical ethics to the importance of effective communication.
- Dr Robert Gallo – A biomedical researcher who co-discovered HIV as the cause of AIDS and developed the HIV blood test, Dr Gallo could provide insights into the challenges and successes of medical research, as well as the impact of scientific advancements on public health.
With such a diverse range of perspectives, experiences and expertise related to healthcare, I’m confident that these distinguished guests would not only appreciate a delicious meal but also contribute to a lively, engaging and enlightening dinner conversation filled with laughter and camaraderie!
Would you be brave enough to share one of your guilty pleasures with us?
I must admit, my guilty pleasure reveals my inner geek, despite my attempts to project a cool and worldly persona!
While my work no longer involves hands-on coding, I find it to be a truly immersive and relaxing activity. So, many evenings, you’ll find me typing away at code in front of the TV. Currently, I’m working on developing my own REXX compiler as a nostalgic nod to one of the first programming languages I used professionally during my mainframe days.
Embracing my inner geek? Absolutely, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Finally, would you share a favourite quote with us to send our readers off with some inspiration?
The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. (Socrates)
Wise words indeed, thank you, Adrian! Stay tuned for more insights into the work and life of Endavans in the next parts of our Meet the SME series.