I’m currently in Boston with the government-backed Future Health Mission, which has hand-picked 20 of the UK’s brightest entrepreneur-led companies to fly to promote their cutting-edge medical products and devices.
As detailed in my first blog, there’s a range of products on offer from a device which can measure a patient’s health status simply by taking a sample of their breath to another which could knock seven weeks off the time it takes to establish whether or not a patient is reacting positively to anti-depressants.
Many of the ideas on show have the potential to save lives and cut substantial costs (although they may require investment in first instance).
The view amongst delegates on this trip is largely that the NHS could do far better at embracing innovative ideas and technology.
Criticisms centre on the well-trodden arguments including that the NHS remains entrenched in silos and that there is not enough collaboration between those setting budgets and those at the sharp end.
This may well be a message senior NHS managers already get.
So, what to do about it?
Zahid Latif is the Technology Strategy Board's head of healthcare.
The Government-funded body, which has a mission statement to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation, spends £55m of its £300m annual budget on healthcare.
The TSB is one of the Future Health Mission's main backers.
I asked Mr Latif what he thought the NHS could be doing to better embrace technology and innovation.
Here’s a summary of his response:
- There needs to be a more collaborative approach between the NHS and industry
“If you look at pharmaceutical companies their historical play has always been adversarial with the NHS: ‘you will buy this drug at this price’ and the health provider trying to push that down.
“In the new world order where healthcare becomes a capped budget there has got to be a more collaborative approach around the development of products and services.”
- The Technology Strategy Board can broker some of those conversations
“People are starting to recognise the roll that we play in brokering some of those conversations. We do not a vested interest in a particular technology of approach. We ultimately looking for wealth creation for UK plc.”
- There needs to be a more robust direction
“We are constantly talking to the NHS and the Department for Health. The challenge is that no one has said that we need to deliver this by such and such a date.
“With low carbon vehicles [another work stream the TSB was heavily involved in] there was a target and we could say ‘how are we going to help get the sector to address that particular target’.”
- Entrepreneurs have to be realistic and think about how their product can integrate into the service
“You have got to have technology to fit the system. If the technology is too advanced the system is going to reject it and if the system is not prepared to adapt and change, the technology will never be adopted.”