How to overcome barriers to innovation with the NHS

From science fiction-style gene therapies to robotic surgical aides, the NHS is built on cutting-edge science. The size, structure and culture of the NHS have created barriers to innovation that have become ingrained over its 70-year history.


From science fiction-style gene therapies to robotic surgical aides, the NHS is built on cutting-edge science. Yet at the same time, it is probably the only organisation in the world that still uses fax machines.

The size, structure and culture of the NHS have created barriers to innovation that have become ingrained over its 70-year history. But that’s not to say they can’t be overcome. We take a look at some of the most commonly encountered hurdles and how to leap over them.


Lack of innovation leaders

The NHS’ budget runs into the billions, but a surprisingly small amount of that money goes towards leadership and management development.


A 2012 report from Government consultants 2020 Delivery said the management and leadership training spend for NHS Providers employees equated to £260 each a year. That’s compared to £320 in the private sector.


Seek out the NHS Innovation Accelerator programme, which is working to solve this problem by investing in staff with a passion for innovation.


Part of the Five Year Forward View, it recognises the importance of technology in improving patient care, population health and staff development and welfare.


Lack of knowledge

Healthcare professionals concentrate on the latest advances in medicine, rather than tech. Few doctors will truly understand the potential benefits of artificial intelligence or data analytics, for example, to their patients.


Thanks to the NHS’ fragmented nature and the time pressures faced by clinicians, introducing new knowledge into the healthcare system can be a slow process. This has a direct impact on med tech adoption.


There is also a well-documented lack of support and an ever-increasing time pressure on those in NHS leadership roles. All this contributes to the “squeezing out” of innovation as staff are forced to focus their efforts on short-term issues.


Med tech needs to be presented as a solution, and the most successful companies align their products to specific NHS priorities. Issues such as preventing avoidable disease and improving adherence to medication can be illustrated through case studies and content marketing.


Old systems and rigid rules

The size and fragmented nature of the NHS makes the integration of communication systems difficult.

Traditionally, there has been little focus on interoperability. Different trusts have used different computer systems, and this has led to a patchwork of programmes that do not talk to each other.


What’s more, reams of rules and regulations in terms of data security and medical confidentially can slow the implementation of new information-based technology to a snail’s pace.


Combined, these can block the development and roll-out of digital health projects.


Health tech innovators with a sound understanding of, and appreciation for, privacy protocols will be able to work within this framework. The flexibility to overcome interoperability issues will also stand companies in good stead.


Overcoming the barriers to innovation in the NHS depends on a thorough understanding of the challenges it faces, and a commitment to educating staff in the endless patient care benefits of digital health.


To find out how Perfect Storm can help your company overcome barriers to innovation, drop us a message via our contact form, or give us a call.

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