It’s no secret that the NHS can be cautious when it comes to embracing new technology – and for good reason – but there are opportunities abound for med tech companies that can align their products to trusts’ key priorities.
The NHS is in crisis. Caring for an ageing population living with an increasing number of chronic conditions while facing a £30bn funding black hole has forced clinicians pondering how to do more with less.
Multiple policy documents have heralded med tech and digital health, with its ability to improve care and increase efficiency, as the saviour of our health service. But while progress is being made, it’s often slow, piecemeal and littered with obstacles.
No one med-tech company has achieved large scale take-up among the many different trusts and organisations that make up the NHS. But those that have made inroads have done so by aligning their products with NHS priorities – by offering quality, evidence-based solutions to the health service’s biggest problems.
Priorities will vary locally, but there are several issues that affect the NHS on a national level, and products designed to tackle these “low-hanging fruit” will find it easier to overcome budgetary and bureaucratic hurdles.
Here are Perfect Storm’s top picks:
Procurement and productivity
The Carter Review found acute trusts could save up to £5bn by reforming procurement, prescription and data reporting processes. Companies that can demonstrate an ability to provide trusted, money-saving solutions will be welcomed.
Recruitment and training
A briefing paper from The Kings Fund, the Health Foundation and the Nuffield Trust, published in November, said NHS staff shortages could reach 250,00 by 2030. Recruiting, training and retaining staff is one of the biggest problems facing today’s NHS. Cloud-based rota systems that allow shift managers to easily fill gaps or augmented reality surgery applications that allow surgeons to work together while thousands of miles apart are among the tech-driven platforms currently offering solutions.
The Five Year Forward View was clear – without a “radical upgrade in prevention and public health” the UK will be faced with a “sharply rising burden of avoidable disease”. Most people with diabetes, which accounts for one-tenth of the entire NHS budget, have the preventable Type 2 condition. And avoidable cardiovascular disease affects 7million people, costing the NHS £9bn a year. Wearables that encourage healthy lifestyles and apps that help medication adherence can prevent illness and complications while saving the NHS’ valuable resources.
Health tech solutions that can help ease pressure on A&E departments in the winter months are particularly in demand. Preventing unplanned visits to hospital, boosting out-of- hours care capabilities and allowing smoother transitions between A&E and other care centres are all priority areas.
In the UK, 8.5 per cent of radiologist posts are vacant, yet the number of CT and MRI scans being performed increased by more than 30 per cent in England between 2013 and 2016. In 2016, the NHS spent almost £88m clearing radiology exam backlogs. AI could provide innovative solutions that save cash and improve the patient experience by speeding up waiting times.
Patient safety: Nothing is more important than safety. Commissioners are always happy to invest in programs that improve record keeping, develop effective safety checklists, or ease communication between patients, especially those in vulnerable groups, and their clinical teams.
Mental health: Mental health has been highlighted as a priority by successive Government promises to give it “parity of esteem” with physical health. Commissioners will be keen to look at solutions that further this aim, without diverting resources from existing services.
The health service, with its focus on patient care, is naturally “risk adverse” when it comes to adopting digital solutions. Health tech companies hoping to do business with the NHS face a slew of bureaucratic, regulatory and budgetary constraints
But understanding the NHS’ biggest challenges and priority areas will help businesses to align its products to the most accessible med tech budgets. If you're looking for advice on how to market MedTech to the masses, drop us a message and we'll get in touch.