Last week in London, UK the Westminster Health Forum event brought together clinicians, policymakers, and industry experts to discuss current challenges and future opportunities for innovation in the UK health sector.
The day began with Paul Rice, Head of Technology Strategy at NHS England, who detailed examples of UK Global Digital Exemplar Programs that are driving adoption during the process of digitizing the largest single-payer system in the world. Paul reminded the audience that meaningful change in complex health systems could only be achieved with “People enabled by tech…not the other way around.” Julia Manning, Director of 2020 Health, considered the power of “Digital Phenotyping,” or using analytics to capture mental health and behavior metrics from digital sources in order to prioritize resources and craft more effective treatment pathways for patients. It was stressed that such data-driven initiatives, such as depression diagnosis apps, cannot be spectator sports; they require immersion from their champions to truly understand the complexities of human use and challenges of improving patient wellness.
Charlie Davie, Managing Director of UCL Partners and the Academic Health Science Network, spoke of the success of a number of high-profile initiatives, including NHS Test Beds, the NHS Innovation Accelerator, and DigitalHealth.London. Dr Davie underscored the need to identify innovation gaps in the current healthcare system, but then to work with the system to implement new solutions. NHS Test Beds are a key example of this strategy: creating spaces for health and care workers to use novel interconnected devices, such as wearables and advanced data analytics, to improve patient wellness and pioneer in-home monitoring.
Andrew Davies, Market Access Director at ABHI, confronted the effect of Brexit on medtech later in the morning, including details of the ABHI’s recent policy-focused surveys. Andrew plotted-out changes in attitudes over the past year in the UK, including the fact that Brexit remains the number one concern of the industry and that 97% of stakeholders want alignment with the current EU CE mark system going forward. Despite stressing the vital need for collaboration between the NHS and industry, a growing number of people in the industry also consider the long-term sustainability of the NHS a major concern, according to ABHI.
A panel discussion followed, which focused on using tech to redesign services and enable more effective self-care. Speakers included Helen Meese, Head of Healthcare at the iMechE, and Kay Boycott, Chief Executive Asthma UK, who both highlighted the importance of understanding the underlying principles of new technology as well as the final user—evaluating new ideas based on marketability, evidence-driven claims, safety and usability. Taz Aldawoud, Digital Clinician Champion NHS England, and Ian Sharpe, Chief Executive of Digital Health Enterprise Zone, focused the discussion on integration of new technology on the ground level in NHS trusts. Both spoke of navigating large healthcare organisations and driving high-impact innovations, with the key advice being “knowing both the right door to knock-on, and the right time to be knocking.”
John Craig, CEO of Care City, began the day’s second session with insight on how Care City is revolutionizing community health access with innovation, research, and education focused in the key areas of dementia, chronic conditions, and care. John spoke of the importance of testing that is systemic, embedded, and realistic, and how such efforts can close the gap between invention and implementation, such as understanding why a rollout of a new technology can be seamless and smart in one location, and chaos in another. Hannah Harniess, Digital Health London Accelerator, introduced attendees to the 31 SME-led innovation projects that are benefiting from the accelerator’s power to embed.
Melissa Ream, Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network, spoke of the possibilities for 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) to furnish the radical change needed to reduce duplication and unnecessary visits in the NHS. Melissa introduced the IoT projects currently being trialed in two NHS trusts, including the TIHM for Dementia system that enables dementia patients to be better cared-for in their homes and give carers a piece of mind when they are absent.
Graeme Tunbridge, from the MHRA, introduced a regulatory perspective toward the close of the forum by summarizing impending regulatory changes and detailing the growing convergence of drugs, devices, and diagnostics. A number of challenging areas were highlighted and debated, particularly around the issues of direct-to-consumer genetic testing, 3D printing, self-care products, and the increasingly ubiquitous inclusion of AI in diagnostic software. Doris-Ann Williams, Chief Executive of BIVDA, also highlighted forthcoming reclassification of in-vitro diagnostic devices in the regulatory environment and guided the audience through the implications of these changes for innovators. Finally, Doris-Ann set out a significant future role for diagnostic testing as the foundation of truly personalized treatment regimen.
The forum brought together leading voices in the UK healthcare innovation space. Together they gave real insight into the complex and often highly variable process of actually implementing technological solutions that improve patient health first and foremost.
Details of future events can be found at the Westminster Health Forum’s web portal…