In the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) adoption and uptake of innovative technology is a continuous priority for improvement and something industry leaders, clinicians and senior NHS management are trying to tackle head-on.
With a plethora of new technologies coming through, I question how we make NHS procurement efficient, and support innovation adoption before we focus on personalising the healthcare it provides.
The challenges are well-known and documented, the Department of Health’s Accelerated Access Review (AAR) makes clear the need to improve the current system. Horizon scanning, national guidelines, a focus on digital & transformative technologies and mechanisms to incentivise adoption are all recommended in the final report.
So how can these new technologies be prioritised before gaps and areas of unmet need are determined?
In Newcastle a new national centre is attempting to do just this. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Innovation Observatory is a data-analytics platform used to find all new treatments and technologies coming through from international industry. This can be filtered by speciality or therapy area and easily slotted in to gaps and areas of clinical unmet need within the NHS.
Used routinely by our clinicians, CCGs, NICE and other stakeholders involved in healthcare commissioning and approvals it will ensure they are prioritising the right technology for adoption.
Personalising healthcare is of ongoing importance – strides have been taken to bring genomic testing into mainstream practice, for example. However, this personalised therapy is often undertaken at one point in the patient journey, rather than as an ongoing effort throughout treatment or even at a point of early intervention.
Rather than a new diagnostic test being evaluated in isolation, all new diagnostic tests and treatments available should be assembled around a clinical care pathway and evaluated as one cohesive patient journey. Right through from early diagnosis in primary care, into hospital and latterly outpatient treatment and community care; allowing CCGs to make more informed decisions more quickly.
Additionally, although health economics plays a pivotal role in evaluation of new technology, it is often not directly related to the patient demographics seen within a community or NHS Trust. The burden of disease can be vastly different in one area of the UK to another, prevalence of liver disease within the North West of the country being significantly higher than the South East, for example.
All of the above is easier said than done with healthcare providers eager to show savings and service improvement in one financial year. Procurement and commissioning of new technologies and services need to be given the room to genuinely explore alternative treatments and interventions for the benefit of the patients they support.
Modern healthcare has become holistic and patients’ part of a wider health economy – let’s make sure the NHS can keep up.
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