Combining experience and agility is key to solving NHS challenges

Hamish Graham
Health technology is having an impact in the NHS. (Source: Getty)

Whatever your news outlet of choice, you’re likely hearing the same story – the UK health system is in need of support, and quickly. We’re facing serious health challenges with an ageing population and chronic diseases. But what these reports are missing is that hope is just around the corner in the form of exciting new technologies designed from scratch to solve these challenges.

I say around the corner, because one of the main blocks we face in the health sector, more so than any other industry, is the speed at which new technology can impact patients and services in the NHS.

As a doctor and an entrepreneur now working with Pfizer, I’ve seen many sides of our complex and intricate health and care industries. For start-ups, trying to navigate the nuances of the system can be daunting, while bigger businesses are often bound by regulation which increases time to market.

We need to get smarter at harnessing and deploying innovation into our health service, which is why big business and start-ups need to collaborate more closely together.

Healthtech making its mark

Health technology is having an impact in the NHS in a variety of places including self-care, diagnosis and communication, as well as in doctors’ surgeries and hospitals.

Across the UK, there are some great examples of how innovative technology can improve the delivery of healthcare for patients while generating efficiencies for the NHS. There are a number of tele-heath and digital GP services enabling consultations via phone or video, and even really simple technology – like text messages – can make a difference helping doctors’ surgeries reduce the number of missed appointments or, in the case of Totohealth, giving new Mums and Dads parenting tips.

The broadest impact will come from taking proven technology, with a demonstrated user base, and applying that technology to healthcare. There is potential and many opportunities for the NHS to innovate.

Big business and start-ups need to collaborate more closely together."

The near future of healthtech

Right now, health technology is still in its infancy but, over the next few years, it will have a big impact across all areas of the industry, from self-care to doctors’ surgeries and hospitals. It will enable patients to manage their conditions more effectively and improve preventative health, allowing us to lead healthy lives for longer.

In the capital, there are a growing number of incubators and accelerators focused on driving innovation in this area, such as the Health Foundry, backed by Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust.

At Pfizer, we’re looking to support start-up companies innovating at the cross-section between health and technology to grow, through our Pfizer Healthcare Hub: London initiative designed to support and accelerate innovation to transform patients’ lives.

We’ve recently shortlisted 10 health start-ups to be part of a pitch day and we’ll select three to work with us over the course of a year. The aim is for the technology to be used and actively working in the NHS by the end of the 12-month relationship.

The entries were varied and inspiring and the shortlist is exiting. We have companies solving different problems right across the health system including primary care delivery, online appointments, care at home, prescriptions, chronic disease management and more.

Our role as a global business is to connect start-ups and innovators with whoever they need to help them grow - from academic groups and hospitals leading digital transformation to policy-makers, investors or our own experts. We must then support these start-ups to explain their innovation’s potential and value to patients and healthcare providers and secure its adoption within the healthcare system. It’s a timely convergence and something that should enable technology to infiltrate the system and start making a real and immediate impact on patients’ lives.

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