There are plenty of opportunities for Med-Tech innovation in the NHS to improve efficiency, save money and ultimately provide patients with a better service
My blog is predominately technical with writings about building websites so why am I posting about innovation in the NHS? I was kindly invited along to the 2016 HEE awards dinner on the 9th June as finalists in the ICT/Software category for being on the team that built www.managemymenopause.co.uk – a website commissioned by the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NNUH) to help inform women on the menopause. A website project that I am particularly proud to have been involved in building.
The HEE is a technology advisory and innovation management organisation, designed to bridge the gap between innovation and the NHS. Providing an avenue for innovators to come up with ideas that can be commercially viable based on market opportunity whilst at the same time protecting Intellectual Property. IP law is a large feature of HEE because the NHS Trusts have IP policies giving details of the sharing of revenues generated from commercialisation.
HEE 2016 Winners
The eventual winner in our category was from the Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust with an app that could best be described as a match-making service for lung organ donors – matching up organ donors to recipients using algorithms, essentially taking away the need for a lengthy paperwork based manual review and selection process. Important in organ donation as time is of the essence.
Other winners included a service developed by a team at the NNUH which uses SMS messaging to remind patients of appointments in order to reduce the number of ‘Did Not Attends’. To date this particular project has saved over £130,000 in admin costs.
Opportunities for innovation in the NHS
What was abundantly clear from the evening is that there are plenty of opportunities for companies to innovate med-tech for the NHS and you don’t need to look far for ideas to help improve service delivery. There appeared to be plenty of problems to solve with perhaps a lack of access to these problems and/or data. The NHS is still an entity whose needs aren’t dissimilar to other businesses. It’s how to push forward technology improvements within its corporate governance.
Taking the SMS messaging appointment app above. I do regular work for a boutique personal injury law firm in assisting them with their IT. About 6 years ago I rolled out a process for sending SMS message reminders to clients reminding them of medical appointments that they needed to attend as the firm had a large amount of clients missing appointments. It uses ‘off-the-shelf’ services from Esendex, a business SMS service, to deliver text messages auto generated from the backend of the firm’s case management software.
The same logic I applied to the Manage My Menopause project. When Eddie Morris from the NNUH came to me back in December 2014 with the idea, I knew that it could be done as I had built a similar program back in 2005, again for the law firm, where they wanted to auto generate a PDF document from data fed by email from a third party. It was a question of how to build www.managemymenopause.co.uk using web technologies that had evolved over 10 years.
Barriers to innovation
From an outside perspective and from conversations with some of the other participants during the evening, there appear to be some barriers for companies to innovate med-tech for the NHS.
One of them would be access to and the understanding of data contained within the NHS. Although Google has seen the potential to make money from the NHS with it’s data sharing agreement. There are certainly opportunities around to create tech that can help improve service and at the same time create profit.
The other problem is understanding the processes of innovating within the structure of the NHS and the ‘red tape’ involved in being able to develop software and apps to improve patient service. This is evident from the list of finalists at the HEE Awards who were mostly from within the NHS rather than the business sector/SMEs. There was a specific category for SMEs in the finalists – the fact that there is a need to separate SMEs out into their own category is an indication that they are external to the normal ‘red tape’ process.
The HEE awards evening was a success and from a personal perspective I gained an understanding that innovating med-tech for the NHS is possible. Thank you to Eddie Morris and his team from the NNUH for inviting me along to the HEE awards evening.