Bringing innovation into the NHS

Bringing innovation into the NHS

The NHS and Innovation Adoption

The latest ‘Think BIG Future Health & Life Science Series’ event took place in Manchester on the 4th of July, 2018. This significant event was chaired by Dr Peter Bannister, an IET healthcare executive, with keynote speakers Guy Gross, a healthcare innovation consultant and Ian Sharpe, the CEO of the Digital Enterprise Zone. Attended by 64 delegates from around the country, the primary theme of this event was the need for innovation in the NHS and the elimination of the barriers preventing innovation from being implemented at the NHS.

According to the speakers, the challenges surrounding the adoption of new technologies into the NHS are twofold. Speakers were of the opinion that the NHS needs to adopt a conducive approach towards adopting innovative technologies, while the technology industry needs to facilitate this process through ongoing collaboration to successfully integrate useful new technologies into the NHS.

Barriers from the Technological Industry Perspective

Technological companies do not clearly understand the needs of the NHS, the decision-making structure, commissioning processes or their limited budgetary resources when promoting certain innovative devices or technological solutions. Because the NHS is not a consumer-based organization, evaluation of innovations is also a problem since there is no standardization of approval processes within the NHS.

From the technology environment, companies want to sell state-of-the-art systems to the NHS, which their budgets don’t cover. Engineering or clinical backgrounds want a practical fit to solve the problems they experience – which needs are not always clearly articulated. Added to these challenges are the fact that technological companies don’t necessarily understand the clinical requirements for safety of a device, testing and sufficient trial proof that the device will safely cope with large-scale use over extended periods.

The Importance of the NHS in Focusing on Innovations

The NHS is the leading national healthcare organization tasked with the widespread care of the country’s citizens. Failure to remain current with technological innovations runs the risk of the organization becoming ineffective in meeting its healthcare mandates. The lost opportunities for training and development in utilizing state-of-the-art equipment designed to optimize patient healthcare is also in jeopardy of being compromised should the NHS not pay close attention to technological innovations developed to improve its operations. A lack of focused attention on remaining technologically current may eventually devolve into a situation where the costs required to update equipment will not be viable in the future.

How Can Technological Companies Get Themselves Noticed?

Approach the Natural Innovation Accelerator as a central decision-making authority to begin with. Speaking to the right people from the start will build relationships aimed at greater collaboration in the long-term. Understanding the needs of the NHS in terms of the integration of existing and new technologies is another critical element in making inroads. Gain clarity in identification of the needs of the NHS before embarking on the design of new products. Work collaboratively to integrate processes and new technologies. Form strong, trusted alliances which understand the environment to benefit the NHS, its innovative clinicians and technological companies.

Pitfalls and Solutions When Dealing with the NHS?

An integrated alliance of technology service providers with the NHS would reap far greater benefits than the isolated system of commissioner/provider. Greater teamwork between engineers, clinicians and managers in the NHS with external technology companies will help service providers understand the needs, budgetary limitations and extent of the processes involved in the approval of new innovations.

Restructuring of the approval system within the NHS in providing a streamlined, standardized, more rapid approval system would be conducive to adopting practical, new innovations with a dedicated department of experts to facilitate this process. Collaboration between NHS and technological partners is key to facilitating the adoption of new technologies, as is the understanding of clinical needs, modification of existing technologies or creation of new devices/systems in alignment with these needs, which would be highly-advantageous to all stakeholders.

See also

A piece of supporting thought leadership was also published prior to the event and distributed to attendees on the evening. Written by Dr. Guy Gross, a member of the IET Healthcare Panel, ‘Healthcare Commissioning – Time for a more business-like approach’ article aims to challenge conventional healthcare sector thinking on how the NHS deficit might be tackled and more innovation achieved by considering business-like approaches that focus on standardisation rather than rationalisation.

A downloadable PDF of the Healthcare Commissioning article is available to read.