Rob Berry, Commercial Director (Interim) at UCLPartners, describes how we help companies plan and manage their approach to the NHS and other health and care markets.
The NHS is an attractive market for home-grown UK companies as well as companies from overseas. Adoption by the NHS is seen as an important endorsement that supports access to other health care markets.
Yet, to quote relatively recent research that reflects the experience of many companies:
“Many promising technological innovations in health and social care are characterized by non-adoption or abandonment by individuals or by failed attempts to scale up locally, spread distantly, or sustain the innovation long term at the organization or system level.” (Greenhalgh et al., 2017).
The research goes on to say that it is possible to foresee risk of failure from the perspective of the adopting organisation.
At UCLPartners, our Commercial and Innovation team understands the extent to which foreseeable issues could impact on business success and viability, and we support companies to assess these factors at an early stage.
One of the biggest challenges faced by companies, especially those new to the NHS, is understanding the NHS. This understanding can help them to assess the opportunity their technology might address, set realistic expectations for their product uptake over time, and assess the level of business opportunity for their product or service.
The consequence of not having this understanding can be wasted time and effort leading to frustration and lost opportunities to concentrate on alternatives that could have more potential. This in turn impacts on patients, workforce and, to a degree, the wider economy.
Working as part of a network of 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) across England, we have been commissioned by the Office for Life Sciences to address knowledge gaps in four distinct areas:
- Understanding local NHS priorities and how to engage with the owners of those priorities, clarifying what the priority owner is looking for and how best to present available solutions to them.
- Signposting companies to resources to support development and evaluation of a product or service. Typically, for those at a more advanced stage of development that meets local NHS needs, this involves support in developing their approach to the NHS.
- Real world validation. Distinct from small scale, controlled-environment testing and evaluation, ‘real world validation’ helps to identify practical implementation challenges and costs, whilst demonstrating whether the claimed impact can be realised. This in turn supports the fourth area:
- Adoption and spread of products and services. The benefit of prior validation should enable faster setup and a smoother implementation. AHSNs have a wealth of experience and relationships essential for connecting key stakeholders to support the adoption and sustained use of products and services.
For most companies, engaging with UCLPartners will involve a passing relationship – dropping in when the company is looking for information and connections, disappearing to work on their business, and reappearing months or years later with a more advanced product.
In the 12 months to March 2019, the AHSN Network engaged with more than 2,500 companies. AHSNs been helped these companies to secure investment; employ more staff; gain access to national programmes; grow their businesses and achieve contracts through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI Healthcare) and Innovate UK. Case studies of their experience are available on the AHSN Network website.
Having met with many hundreds of companies while working with the AHSN Network, I believe we can provide useful insights or connections to most of the companies that approach us. The cost of entry is low, and the first steps of completing an online form and attending a ‘market insight briefing’ are not onerous. We are also keen to hear how we can improve our offer.
If you have a health technology that you believe is right for the NHS or wider healthcare system, we would like to hear from you.
Tell us more about your technology