New Accelerator Aims To Get Innovations Into The NHS

Regular readers of this blog will appreciate the vast range of innovations emerging in healthcare at the moment.  Alas, few of these innovations make it to the patient because systems such as the NHS are so difficult to penetrate.

Indeed, earlier this year a report from the King’s Fund highlighted the difficulty in diffusing innovations, such as AI technology, throughout the UK health system.

The report suggests that traditional approaches, including publicising them at conferences and producing toolkits, are not working, and instead advocates the need for more manpower to help do the vital work of spreading new innovation.

This manpower should consist of teams built around the innovators themselves to help with things like marketing, change management and investment appraisal. Suffice to say, the resourcing for such teams is not present in the NHS today, with just 0.1% of total NHS spending devoted to the adoption of innovation.

“As long as the NHS sets aside less than 0.1 per cent of available resources for the adoption and spread of innovation, a small fraction of the funds available for innovation itself, the NHS’s operating units will struggle to adopt large numbers of innovations and rapidly improve productivity,” the report says.

A new approach

The NHS have tried all manner of things to improve the diffusion of innovation into the service, all to little avail.  Will HS. do any better?  They’re an accelerator that launched earlier this year with the aim of supporting innovative medtech startups as they grow, both in the UK and overseas.

The project was the brainchild of surgeon and serial entrepreneur Dr Alex Young and Dr James Somauroo, formerly of the Digital Health.London accelerator.

I attended the launch event and heard from a selection of the first cohort of startups, who range from a telehealth platform to a voice recognition service to automate medical note taking.  Whilst some of the startups have been around for a bit, the majority were just a few weeks old, so had very little to actually support themselves other than lofty goals and a reasonable personal pedigree.

Young and Somauroo believe they have both the detailed knowledge of the NHS and the partners to tap into both private sector and overseas markets to allow the startups to grow.  Particularly challenging will be getting through the early stages of unpaid pilots to prove the concept, which can drag on for years.

There will also be challenges in terms of fleshing out the teams to give them the skills required to grow.  HS. have partnerships with recruiters and universities to hopefully support startups in that endeavor.

With both the project and so many of the startups at such an early stage it’s very difficult to gauge how successful they might be.  There is also a sadly long history of innovation projects in the NHS that looked great on paper but failed to generate impact.  It probably falls into the wait and see camp therefore, but they are a project worth keeping an eye on, and it will be interesting to check in on them in June/July when they expect to showcase the work achieved to date.