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Collaboration will deliver a radical new approach to health technology (final post of 3-part blog series)

By October 25, 2018Health, Opinion Piece
Collaboration in health technology

In our first post on technology in healthcare, we looked at the need for change, and how technology is shaping the future of healthcare provision.

Next, we examined the scale of the security problem in an environment of consumer power and ‘Open Healthcare’.

In this post, we look at how we get to a solution.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has expressed his frustration at the state of “clunky” technology in the NHS, and has vowed to sort it out.

In a speech at the NHS Expo in September, Hancock highlighted the problem of every hospital having “dozens of systems each, that don’t talk to each other. GPs, social care, pharmacies and community care are on different systems.” And later in the same speech, he outlined his plan to use “only systems that talk to each other.

This is at the heart of the solution: if we connect systems, share data safely and securely, we can start to solve the healthcare technology problem.

If this is an age of ‘Open Healthcare’, let’s look to the finance sector and Open Banking for inspiration on how to achieve collaboration and interoperability in healthcare. Banks are collaborating with FinTechs to offer the best possible experience for consumers. The same will happen in healthcare.

We need greater collaboration between existing healthcare providers and the newer tech innovators. This is what NHS Digital is set up to do. It’s a great initiative in principle, but the problem is that there are thousands upon thousands of digital start-ups out there, which is typically where the most cutting-edge tech innovation (that the NHS badly needs) is coming from. Hospitals know about delivering excellent patient care, but they don’t have specialist knowledge of how to protect against a DDOS attack for example. Equally, a start-up tech company with a great solution may not know the ins and outs of the health sector, either. Healthcare providers – particularly a time-strapped NHS – don’t have time to validate every startup with a great idea that could transform the sector.

This is where the bigger, established, tech vendors with a heritage of working in healthcare can step in. They can validate those startups and, in many cases, they’re already starting to do so. They’re collaborating with smaller vendors who can supply innovative solutions faster and cheaper than they could do themselves. It’s a way for those legacy vendors to provide transformative technology, and use their scale and infrastructure to integrate systems. And it removes the risk for the (risk-averse) healthcare provider of working with a start-up.

This collaboration means products and services can be rolled out faster, too. One of the biggest barriers to smaller health tech companies in dealing with the NHS, in particular, is the long procurement cycle. The banking system faced the same problem, and banks set up frameworks, accelerators and whole divisions dedicated to working with fintechs, looking at things like procurement processes and payment terms – things that could see smaller providers running out of money before a deal ever comes to fruition. It is this approach that we, Pushfor, have pursued in public healthcare, by collaborating with technology vendors who can provide deep expertise as well as a quick route to market.

In his vision for the future of NHS technology, released on 17 October, Hancock says: “Open standards, secure identity and interoperability are critical to the safe and successful use of technology, ensuring that systems talk to each other and that the right data gets to the right place at the right time.”

It is collaboration – between healthcare and technology vendors, and technology vendors and innovative healthtech companies – that will deliver Hancock’s desired ‘radical new approach’ and see the UK leading the world in health technology.

To find out more about how Pushfor is collaborating with healthcare technology vendors to drive secure communications within the NHS get in touch here.