UK’s NHS needs help to capitalize on healthtech

Innovation in health and social care is “incredible”, but under-pressure health organizations need easy-to-integrate, interoperable solutions.
7 November 2019 | 10 Shares

The NHS staff from Guys and St Thomas’ hospital walking down Regent Street. Source: Shutterstock

The health IT market is booming. Companies have flooded the market, seeking to apply their technical and business savvy to potentially life-changing ends. 

This wealth of tools and solutions can be used by individuals and organizations alike. The market includes products such as electronic health records, mHealth and wearables, self-service kiosks and chatbots, real-time location services for hospital staff, and more. 

Meanwhile, healthcare is becoming one of the most fast-growth areas for the application of artificial intelligence (AI). The volume of medical data at our grasp is overwhelming, but machine learning and AI can unearth new insights, spot patterns, and form diagnoses. 

Swamped with solutions

The wide-ranging advances being made and innovation in the field of healthtech is heartening but, at the same time, this vast scattering of solutions is making adoption difficult where it really matters— in our national health organizations.

According to a report by data and analytics company GlobalData, the UK health market is “swamped with industry-specific solution providers.”

National bodies are keen to invest in these innovations and are attempting to coordinate and facilitate the solutions available. But IT buyers must be aware of the wealth of options at their disposal, the report said. 

“Despite an ever-increasing number of health IT suppliers operating within the UK market, not one comes anywhere near to providing end-to-end capabilities across the complex spectrum of health and social care,” said Jonathan Cordwell, Principle Health and Social Care Analyst at GlobalData. 

“Some NHS organizations are faced with the immense challenge of managing an IT supplier portfolio of hundreds of vendors, each offering individual solutions and niche capabilities. 

“It is expected that going forward, national bodies such as NHSX will encourage buyers to try and simplify these portfolios or at least adopt those with open standards in an effort to ease the pressure of achieving greater interoperability.”

A rolling start

Last month, Thoughtonomy, an automation platform built on AI, RPA and cloud technology, launched a shared automation marketplace for the entire NHS, providing access to existing automation which has already been developed and is being deployed with other NHS Trusts.

Providing automation tools to both front and back-office processes— such as automating referrals— speed and efficiency of deployment was enabled (all so important in the healthcare sector), without the need to start from scratch.  

With this approach alone, the hospital claimed to have released more than 500 hours of medical secretaries’ time within three months of implementing the automation and saved £220,000 (US$270,000) in costs.

Cordwell said ease of integration is crucial for the NHS and the healthcare industry to capitalize on the new wave of healthcare IT, adding; “Vendors with broad portfolios position themselves well to take advantage of complex opportunities.” 

However, he also said the increased interoperability will start to open doors to smaller competitors looking to expand their footprints. 

“It is imperative that buyers no longer start from scratch with each new tender that is released, as this results in avoidable mistakes being made across the NHS time and time again,” Cordwell said. 

The report acknowledged that the current innovation in health and social care is “incredible”, but in such a competitive marketplace, the challenge is how to facilitate the vast landscape of vendors to work together harmoniously. 

“Some NHS organizations are faced with the immense challenge of managing an IT supplier portfolio of hundreds of vendors, each offering individual solutions and niche capabilities,” said Cordwell. 

“It is expected that going forward, national bodies such as NHSX will encourage buyers to try and simplify these portfolios or at least adopt those with open standards in an effort to ease the pressure of achieving greater interoperability.”