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The barriers to healthtech examined in new report

‘The Promise of Healthtech’ is a new report analysing the barriers to take-up of new digital technologies in the NHS. Published by PUBLIC and authored by former Health Innovation Minister, Nicola Blackwood, the report examines why the pay-out of the digital dividend is being delayed in British healthcare.


“A future awaits where medical information, gathered at the point of care or even at an earlier stage through apps, wearables, digestibles, home-based devices and sensors, is analysed using sophisticated machine algorithms to provide real-time, actionable analytics,” says Nicola Blackwood in the introduction to the report.


It might sound like science fiction to many, but there is a clear benefit to be had. “Many tech-driven startups are already beginning to demonstrate how they can offer patients better care, while at the same time delivering a service much more efficiently. And they are not confined to large cities such as London or Manchester.”


However, getting innovations into the NHS can be a time-consuming and frustrating process for private companies, especially the hundreds of healthtech startups pioneering new digital technologies and processes. The report describes the NHS as “digitally risk-averse” and outlines six key barriers that have been identified following a survey of hundreds of healthtech startups. 


These are:


* Lack of clarity about evidence – innovators struggle to scale from one Trust to another because standards and requirements vary


* Fast evolving regulation – keeping up with regulatory standards is challenging


* Slow procurement – many Trusts rely on large IT vendors which may operate out-of-date business models that are not welcoming to innovators offering a more agile service


* Partial interoperability – many Trusts and organisations are signed up to long-term contracts with incumbents who do not meet standards of interoperability and therefore different systems are not able to communicate with each other


* Unclear data security standards – lack of clarity from the Information 

Commissioner’s Office and National Data Guardian over interpretations of the GDPR requirements for health companies makes compliance for digital innovators difficult


*Limited change management and digital skills – there is significant variation across the NHS in terms of cultural resistance and digital skills.


“Addressing the barriers to change should be a top Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England priority. But startups also need to do their bit. They need to understand the NHS system and to show compliance with the requisite standards,” the report concludes.



Most promising


The PUBLIC report publishes its HealthTech 27 – a list of the most promising, product-led digital health startups across nine key categories: Procurement & Productivity; Recruitment & Training; Prevention; Winter Pressures and Supported Self-Care; AI in Pathology and Radiology; Patient Safety; Mental Health; Social Care; and Research. 


These categories are identified as the ‘low hanging fruit’ where digital technologies are already poised to bring benefits for those who adopt them, but in years to come many more.


The full report may be downloaded here.