Corrina Kane gives an industry perspective.

This week the government announced the first meeting of the newly formed HealthTech Advisory Board. The board is chaired by celebrity doctor/author Ben Goldacre alongside a host of digital health academics, financiers and industry leaders. Reporting directly into the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, they have the formidable task of advising him on ways the NHS can improve patient outcomes and reduce staff workload through technology and innovation.

The news comes on the back of the excellent Healthcare Partnership Network event in Milton Keynes earlier this month. Lumeon attended the HPN for the first time this year, and the team came away feeling positive about the people they met and discussions they had. There’s a real sense of energy and momentum in the NHS around change, innovation, and technology. Attendees from the NHS had made an effort to identify their technology investment areas and were open to discussing their issues and plans.

This type of event goes some way to breaking the barriers between technology providers, and those in need of provision. However, it’s small-scale and relies upon buyers taking precious time away from the office, and sellers investing the time and money to show up, again and again, in the hope that interesting discussions will turn into customers. What’s really needed is systemic infrastructure change to support successful deployment of incoming technological innovation.

The new Health Secretary is certainly talking the talk when it comes to improving technology, IT systems, and innovation in the NHS. I hope his new advisory board has the teeth to make some change when it comes to their mandate of assisting with policy creation, decision making, and ideation.

As a fast-growing SME tackling exactly the matter of improving patient outcomes and reducing staff workload, what would I put on the agenda?

Procurement. Just as health service operations have historically been set up solely for the convenience of providers, and not service users; procurement frameworks are set up solely for the convenience of buyers, not sellers. Frameworks were meant to enable buyers to buy without lengthy tendering processes, but have had the unintended consequence of making it very difficult, expensive and time-consuming for SMEs to be in a position to be bought. What you end up with is the same old names with the same old systems the NHS is pushing to improve getting a leg-up. As a smaller company with an innovative solution, you build a customer base despite procurement processes, rather than because of them. A host of organisations and groups have sprung up to support SMEs find the cracks to slip through. As sellers, we are schooled in truly understanding customer needs and how to sell well. But, until the NHS learns how to buy well, technology innovators will take their solutions to other more amenable markets.

What would you put on the agenda for the HealthTech Advisory Board?