Liz Ashall PayneLiz Ashall Payne is co-founder and CEO of ORCHA, the world’s leading provider of digital health accreditation ad distribution services.

A trained Speech and Language Therapist, for almost 20 years Liz led NHS transformation programmes, helping to unlock the power of digital across the UK and Europe.

In 2015 Liz founded ORCHA, attracting investment from Sir Terry Leahy and Bill Currie.  The organisation has grown exponentially, now providing digital health assessment and distribution services in eleven countries and in the UK to organisations in 50% of NHS regions.

ORCHA has won numerous awards, whilst Liz has been selected as a Tech Trailblazer by the BIMA 100, picked as a Healthcare IT Leader by the HIMSS Future 50, named Entrepreneur of the Year by the British Chamber of Commerce and has featured within the LDC top 50.

Liz was appointed a NHS England NIA fellow, is a coach for the NHS England Clinical Entrepreneur program, a member of the OCS Advisory Board, the Tech UK Health and Social Care Council and is the Associate Vice Chair for Standards for the British Computing Society.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I started my career working in the NHS as a healthcare professional, working in complex paediatric care. This passion for me started before I worked clinically. From when I was 15, I wanted to help people and that was still my passion when I started seeing patients.

By the end of day one, I felt really frustrated, because had only been able to see six patients.

I got really interested in how can we improve efficiencies, so that we as clinicians can see more patients. And I managed to get to being able to see about 10 patients a day.

I got the bug and I went around basically any other service you can think of in health and care, exploring ways we could see more patients

Then technology started to emerge as an enabling driver to support us in efficiencies and achieving better health outcomes. I thought, wow, we have a real opportunity here, particularly with the rise of digital health, because I can deploy a digital health solution to a million people all at the same time and they can all use it without being compromised.

So that’s really what ORCHA is founded on. ORCHA stands for the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps. We review and rate more digital health solutions than anyone else in the world. Our mission is to get high quality products to people who need them. In order to do that you have to answer the question, which apps are high quality?

We review and approve, and we repeatedly do that job every time a product updates and changes. Then we put that information into digital health libraries and formularies. Doctors are used to using formularies to find a trusted drug to prescribe from. So, we’re doing that, but for digital health.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I planned to be a clinician but then discovered my true vocation. Since ORCHA was founded, I have never veered away from my vision and I have never looked back.

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What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Without a doubt, my biggest achievement has been to surround myself with a fantastic team of talented individuals.

What are you looking forward to in 2022?

The past year has seen digital health take a huge leap forward, now is the time to catch up, build systems based on trust and inspire developers to create genius products to help solve our world’s health challenges.

As part of this, there will be a big focus on upskilling healthcare workers in 2022. ORCHA’s digital health training academy, sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim, will be open for all UK healthcare workers from March 2022. This UK-first service will offer free, CPD-accredited training in digital health skills. We’re excited about the potential of our academy – we want it to be a catalyst for real progress.

Additionally, our clinical teams at ORCHA believe digital health is extremely well placed to help the NHS tackle the elective surgery backlog. The BMA estimates that, between April 2020 and October 2021, there were 4.13 million fewer elective procedures. Digital can support across a broad spectrum of the priority medical conditions, in particular ophthalmology, MSK, cardiology and dermatology.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech?

Yes, I do. Since founding ORCHA, I noticed that whilst we were recruiting men and women equally to graduate roles, the males were more confident in asking for promotions and salary increases. I asked myself why and reflected on my own career progression. Then I looked at how few women were founding businesses and becoming chief executives and at the challenges they face throughout their careers: women get pregnant, they take maternity leave, they go through the menopause.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Companies must support women – but women have to grasp the challenge, too. We now have female-only sessions every six weeks to mentor our staff, with guest speakers. No subject is off the table: we recently had an open discussion about menopause.

As a female business founder, I believe it’s important for me to live and breathe my role. For this reason, I am our main media spokesperson. We work in a rather male-dominated industry, so it is vital for our organisation to show we are dynamic and different.

A shout-out for the North!

I’m incredibly proud of my Bolton roots and have lived there most of my life. The North of our country is blessed with such a powerful entrepreneurial drive. Being part of this encourages me every day. My company is based at Sci-Tech Daresbury, a world class location for high-tech business and leading-edge science based in the Liverpool City Region. We’re surrounded on the site by amazing tech expertise and organisations, which has allowed us to collaborate and grow during the pandemic. Since we’ve been based here we have managed to start a recruitment drive for over 100 staff and key board members, which has also enabled us to expand in 11 countries.