How do we make disruptors less disruptive?

Madeleine Harris Smith

Over a number of years, one of the key conversations at every health event we’ve attended has focused on the challenges faced by emerging start-ups, digital organisations and tech companies in engaging with the health service.  While there is a clear need for scrutiny of products and initiatives in the health sector, the NHS’s barriers to entry have always been so inexplicably high and complex, that some of the most established companies with significant funding resources behind them have struggled to get through.  Perhaps this is not so surprising when you consider that pager use in the NHS accounts for ten percent of the total number left in use globally, and 9,000 fax machines are used daily to send documents.

However, this lack of disruption means that both staff and patients have been missing out on some of the most effective digital and technological innovations, both in terms of cost and health outcomes, for years.  Making more accurate diagnoses, monitoring symptoms and co-morbidities, personalising treatment regimens, reducing the impact of side effects and improving health outcomes for patients are challenges that we come up against every day in our work with clients.  And yet, these are problems that could be solved using some of the digital and tech solutions that already exist.

Of course, coming up with an answer on how to embrace technological innovation, while still upholding high levels of regulation and scrutiny is not an easy task.  That’s why NHSX’s announcement earlier this month, that they are working to establish a new NHS-recognised Digital Health Technology Standard, should be so applauded.

The Standard will be based on existing industry and health standards, combining ‘elements of the existing Digital Assessment Questions with other data and interoperability standards’.  NHSX will also work with NICE on an evaluation framework to support the assessment of the cost and clinical impact of digital tools.

Importantly, the development of this Standard will provide a clearer route into the NHS for developers, with guidance on what’s involved in the assessment process, what level of evidence is required, and the technical standards to be adhered to.  There is also an exciting-sounding promise to ‘matchmake’ commissioners’ needs with the developers who can meet them.

So, how do you make disruptors less disruptive? You make the brave decision to embrace and support them to create positive change in an outdated system. In the words of NHSX, you ‘support the development of an appropriately governed digital health technology ecosystem that is more responsive to digital health innovators and provides a more comprehensive service to citizens and staff’.

A consultation on the new Standard is expected to open in early 2020, with an intention to complete work by Spring 2020.  We’re excited to see the disruption it creates….

You can read more about the Digital Health Technology Standard here.

Interested in talking more about navigating the health system? Get in touch!