Compassly at Rewired – the good, the sad and the unfriendly

Our CEO, Jonathan, attended Digital Health Rewired 2022 in London – the below are his reflections from the event.

The good

It felt fantastic to be back at events in-person

It almost became a cliche how much people were saying this, but that made it no less true – it really was great to be at in-person events again after two years of Covid-led cancellations. Videoconferencing has opened up tremendous new opportunities and people adapted surprisingly well, but you realise how much you do miss out on the experience of seeing people in person.

I bumped into a surprising number of old friends and colleagues too, met lots of new, inspiring people, and enjoyed seeing them at the event and socially afterwards – all their passion reminded me why I find digital health such an exciting field to work in.

Nursing was firmly at the top table for digital

The strength of nursing at a digital event felt different from anything I’d seen before – in fact I think it caught the organisers out too, as several of the nursing sessions were standing room only.

You could feel this in many different ways. The keynote from Ruth May, as NHS England CNO, underlined the importance. The sheer number of nurses attending, including many senior nurses. The breadth and depth of nursing topics that were covered. And the level of interest in nursing across the whole conference.

In previous years and at many digital health events, nursing has felt like a bit of an after-thought – informed or even consulted perhaps, but not leading or responsible. Finally here it felt like nursing had equal billing in health tech, exactly as it should be.

Witnessing the power of community

This was a chance encounter for me, sitting next to and chatting to some fantastic members of the Shuri Network, but I’m so glad it happened. I’ve read some really heartbreaking stories of nurses feeling a lack of support an inclusivity from colleagues, but seeing the way that the Shuri Network community supported, believed and outright cheered for each other was inspirational – and infectious.

The sad

We didn’t win Pitchfest – but it was great to be in the running

So the main reason we were at Rewired was because we were in the heats for the finals of Rewired Pitchfest. We were truly honoured to be part of it, and I see it as recognition of the value of Compassly that we made it through the (I believe) hundreds of entries to get to the last sixteen.

I was very proud of our heat pitch, and to be honest I think it was an absolute travesty that we weren’t put through to the final. Only kidding – I went along to the final and watched the four five finalists, the standard was very high and all the finalists were incredible. I feel absolutely no shaming losing to them – and it was great to see that four of the five were DigitalHealth.London companies. Congratulations to the winners, CardMedic – a great product and an equally great pitch.

If I was to have one negative reflection on the whole thing, to me it seems from watching the heats, finals and judge responses, that most of the attention is still on patient-facing technology and very little on tech for healthcare professionals. Now of course patient-facing tech is vital, but I still feel that healthcare professional-facing technology is misunderstood and underestimated by many people in healthtech, who probably don’t appreciate the multiplying factor it can bring. A topic for another blog post, and another day…

It was probably a super spreader event

In an event focusing on healthcare, you can’t have had many people there either ignorant or in denial about the remaining risks of Covid-19. Perhaps it was because we haven’t had in-person events for so long, but it suddenly felt like we were all quite closely packed in.

And sure enough, not long after the event I started hearing from friends and seeing on social media that people had tested positive… quickly followed by a contact alert on my own phone.

I’m hugely grateful to the modern scientific miracle that has been the rapid development of Covid-19 vaccines, but it was still a stark reminder that we are not out of the pandemic yet.

The (environmentally) unfriendly

It took me a while to process this, but conferences are horrifically environmentally unfriendly. In the two years we’ve been away from in-person events I think common perception of what is environmentally acceptable has shifted, but the events themselves haven’t caught up and it stuck out badly.

The tatt

It started as soon as we arrived, with the lanyard and even worse little plastic holder for your pass.

It’s a two-day event… did our passes really need that plastic to protect them? As it happens, I attended another two-day conference shortly after and we did fine with the paper pass unprotected… so no, we did not.

And then as you went round, most vendor stalls had some branded tatt to give out, and most of it plastic or otherwise not sustainable… I think it’s safe to say that almost all will be in the bin within a week.

The travel

I’m in a quandary on this one. As great as it was to see everyone there, of course everyone had travelled to get there and that is a lot of carbon emissions. Even more so when you think of all the conference stands and materials that were shipped in. For everything I said about it being great to see people in person, it was a reminder of how much travelling for business leaves a carbon trail behind. On the plus side, I suspect most travelled by train and very few by plane, so at least it was a lower carbon way of travelling.

The disposable nature of… everything

So I must admit, I was an absolute sucker for this idea that Olympus had on their stall:

But Olympus weren’t the only ones offering free coffee, a large number of stalls were – a neat trick, as the reps have you as a captive audience while the barista works on your latte. A fair deal you might say, but every single one was being served in a non-reusable and non-recyclable cup, and all those cups were of course going straight in the bin once drained of their vital caffeine.

And it wasn’t just the coffee – the food in disposable boxes, all the branded printed materials specific to that conference never to be reused and all the other detritus of running a conference. It all just felt wrong. I will confess my guilt here, in years past I’ve been like a magpie hunting out the shiniest nicknack from different vendor stands to add to my stash bag, but it doesn’t feel right now – this year I took nothing, and after this realisation on the first day I returned with my reusable coffee cup and water bottle, and did my best to at least limit my impact at the event.

In conclusion

Rewired 2022 was great, truly it was. I hope that wasn’t just because it stood in contrast to the previous two years spent without events like these, and I don’t think it was.

It felt overdue that nursing was now so prominent at the event, at my hope is that next year I’ll have similar reflections about the changes to the environmental impact too.