An Interview with Alex Cable

Meet Alex Cable, the community director at UKCloud Health, who after over 30 years in the field, remains a passionate advocate for using technology to do the right thing.

What is your role at UKCloud Health?

As community director, I lead the sales and technical sales teams. A lot of my time is spent out of the office either with the team, or meeting partners and customers as we look to help healthcare organisations and clinicians drive better patient outcomes. I am also a keen supporter of encouraging more people to work within science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), as is UKCloud Health.

How did you get involved with UKCloud Health?

Around six years ago, I was working with a Silicon Valley start-up looking to enter UK and European markets. I attended a conference at which Mark O’Neill of the Cabinet Office was talking about using agile and cloud technologies to drive digital transformation in government and deliver a better digital experience for citizens. I was blown away by this; I could see the UK government was so far ahead of the rest of the commercial world.

Soon after that, I was looking for something new when, after having worked with him previously, UKCloud CEO Simon Hansford invited me to take a look at the company. When I realised that UKCloud was behind the cloud platform that was underpinning much of the Cabinet Office’s digital transformation I was sold.

It was the first time I had seen how far technology was driving improvement for everyday people, and here was a great UK SME that was helping the UK government go on this journey. I saw that the UKCloud founders were a group of individuals that had a collective belief about doing the right thing. They believed in the government’s plans to drive down costs of ICT and improve the digital experience with services that better met their needs. People would not need to go the job centre to apply for a carers allowance, for example, spending time away from the person that they were looking after. This echoed my core values of using technology to do what was right.

I have been working with UKCloud since then, and I am now part of the UKCloud Health team that is promoting the use of cloud technology for better clinical and patient experience.

The health work for me came alive when we started working with Genomics England on the 100,000 Genomes project, which is helping deliver better outcomes for people with rare diseases. This showed me that, whilst people can experience fabulous medical care, clinicians at times have to use poor ICT in supporting patient care. Technology can and should have a real benefit for patient outcomes, as well as improving the clinician experience by being built around people’s needs.

How do you think the cloud can benefit the UK healthcare community?

As well as the above improvements in user experience, the cloud offers a platform for cost savings, innovation and collaboration that will drive the healthcare systems of the future.

For example, using the cloud means that NHS trusts can relinquish much of the costs associated with maintaining resource-intensive data centres. Services are paid for when they are consumed, which means that organisations can have better oversight and control of their IT spending.

UKCloud Health enables innovative trials that can demonstrate their impact before being deployed on a wider scale. For example, it is possible to trial the use of mobile devices to enable patients with long term conditions to attend virtual outpatient appointments, rather than have to travel to outpatient meetings hundreds of miles away. Our flexible platform means the proof of concept can be tested, and the return on investment understood before wider rollout across an organisation, and even the wider NHS.

And with the cloud, NHS, local government and third sector care providers can better share information and collaborate using a common platform that cuts across silos and can support multi-disciplinary, integrated care. It is the platform for digital transformation.

What role does leadership play in driving digital transformation in UK healthcare?

Without leadership, you cannot effect transformational change. If we accept that we have to change how healthcare is delivered today, we need that change to be driven by strong leadership, and that doesn’t just come from the top. Leadership should come from across all levels of the organisations involved.

I see leaders in UKCloud in different areas of the business, and that is how you make an organisation thrive. You need people who are responsible and accountable to drive change, and a culture where you don’t fear failure and you can challenge, and you can take a risk as part of a strong vision – that is how we effect change. All people within an organisation need to feel empowered to be able to drive change, be that digital or organisational.

The NHS is seeing such leaders emerge, with the likes of Rachel Dunscombe (director of digital at Salford Royal) and Jo Smith (CIO at Royal Brompton). They are coming to the marketplace wanting to drive transformation, and asking suppliers to play a part in driving that transformation.

For example, Jo Smith talked to the supplier community recently and said that she did not want to be told by suppliers that she had to put in tin in the datacentre, for which she would need to buy licences from them. She said: “I run a hospital. You are the specialists; I want to buy an outcome from you.”

These people are challenging suppliers and outdated business models, and we need such leaders to be brave and be vocal about their requirements. As we have proven with central government, SMEs, large suppliers and public service organisations can work together to drive innovation, and strong leadership is key.

Open standards and interoperability are other big challenges for health and care, and addressing these requires significant leadership. Now, there is real movement. Strong leaders are making change happen.

What is your advice to girls and women considering a career in STEM?

My advice goes to all those thinking of a career in STEM, regardless of gender. My opinion is that you are not defined by your gender. We are individual people.

My advice is very simple, I always say try to do the best you can and set yourself high expectations.

My values are about doing what is right, and treating people correctly, regardless of sex or age. If anyone ever feels they are not being treated as an equal in STEM or indeed any sector, then say it right there.

In the 80s, I got asked to clear the coffee cups away; I just laughed. Thankfully I have had amazing leaders and managers who have always treated me properly, as an individual. Occasionally you need to call people out, and teach people to behave in a different way.

What are your outside interests?

I work as hard today as I ever have done because of my commitment to what I do, having worked in the industry for 33 years. Outside of that, I am a mum and a wife, with an amazing husband and family of four kids.