Doug Drinkwater
UK Editor

Q&A: Mastercall Healthcare CIO Jonathan Ritchie on saving lives through digital innovation

May 22, 2022
Healthcare IndustryInnovationIT Leadership

Director of IT at the out-of-hospital provider of urgent primary care services, Ritchie spoke with on the route he took to become an IT leader and how digital technology is being employed to empower patients to manage their own health care symptoms

Credit: Jonathan Ritchie What are your roles and responsibilities?

My role is the CIO/director of IT/digital innovation at Mastercall Healthcare. I am employed by the C-suite to drive digital transformation forward, ensuring digital initiatives are aligned to the organisation’s business strategy, utilising cutting-edge technology, and reimagining the art of the possible.

Mastercall Healthcare is an award-winning, out-of-hospital provider of urgent primary care services and has just celebrated 25 years in business. 

My role is to support the organisation’s vision to collaborate to inspire a culture of innovation and exceptional healthcare for the benefit of current and future generations. I am also the digital/IT lead for the Greater Manchester Urgent Primary Care Alliance, of which Mastercall Healthcare is a founding member. How has your career evolved to becoming an IT director/CIO/CTO?

I was initially an IT consultant working across the UK, in industries covering legal, health, manufacturing, education, and oil and gas. In that time, I moved to Briggs Marine, a leading global marine and environmental specialist company to become their group head of IT.

This was an extremely exciting opportunity to centralise their global systems and solutions, while developing a strategy to deliver technology and satellite communications to Briggs Marine support vessels. Following an appetite to see more of the world and continue working within maritime, I accepted an IT management role supporting the Italian Navy, US Army, and multinational forces in a UN peacekeeping mission in Israel and Egypt. I returned to the UK, joining Mastercall Healthcare, developing a transformational vision with the executive team. We built an inhouse IT/Digital, BI, and IG services team and proudly developed a commercial clinical performance app.

I have been fortunate to work within a variety of different industries and, at times, been faced with challenging working environments, most notably working offshore in Norwegian waters on an oil rig at -25C (the offshore survival course and helicopter simulation “dip” wasn’t fun either).

As an absolute contrast, I recall working in the 47C + sweltering Sinai heat living on a military base; my taxi was a Blackhawk Helicopter. My dress code was Kevlar vest and hard helmet; it wasn’t uncommon to hear rockets in the distance due to the tensions in Gaza, Israel, and Egypt.

On reflection, whilst experiencing many challenging, and at times difficult, environments I have learned something new, both in my personal and professional life. Throughout my career, I have met a diverse range of people and gratefully received tremendous support from my peers and mentors to enable my progress to the role of CIO today. Tell us about something you have worked on over the last 12 months that you are proud of?

I am particularly proud of two elements over the last 12 months.

I supported the team at Mastercall Healthcare to source and deliver what I believe to be the first innovative remote monitoring service for patients with frailty/long-term conditions and COVID in Greater Manchester, working with a supplier Dignio from Norway (and UK first). We have been fortunate to receive recognition for this innovative service at both HSJ and NHS England level. The difference this has made to patients’ lives cannot be underestimated. 

The use of digital innovation has saved lives, avoided hundreds of hospital admissions and, most importantly, has empowered patients to manage their own health care symptoms. You cannot really put a price on that. I am extremely proud of the clinical team and the dedication shown to embed innovation and new ways of thinking. They have supported our digital strategy immensely well and are really starting to get behind new ideas and, embracing the use of new technologies such as AI/RPA. This is something we channel through our Digital Programme Board; a forum we encourage for innovation, inclusion, awareness, and collaborative working in the organisation.

I was extremely proud to have been listed in the CIO UK 100 for 2021, but this should be viewed as recognition to our incredible team at Mastercall Healthcare and our response to the pandemic. Working closely with our teams, digital partners, providers, commissioners, regional and national colleagues to drive a focused and health eco-system response to the pandemic, ensuring we were saving lives and changing lives What do you do in your leisure time?

I like to hike, mountain biking, play golf, socialise with friends and family, and spend time with my daughter. What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Align with the company’s vision and their business plan, ensuring that everyone understands the end goal. Take the team/stakeholders on that journey together, if possible, promote and provide opportunities from within.