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Future of health innovation is better understanding – MedCity chief says

With the 2015 General Election nearly upon us and the future NHS being a major talking point once again, MedCity Executive Chair Dr Eliot Forster has said better understanding between entrepreneurs and the NHS, along with clearer routes to market are vital to improving healthcare through innovation in the UK. His comments come as MedCity launches the first three in a series of guidance for life sciences entrepreneurs and SMEs that address the main challenges they experience in commercialising their product or service – navigating the NHS, raising finance and accessing the right working space.

Dr Eliot Forster, MedCity

Dr Eliot Forster, Executive Chair at MedCity

However, many life sciences and med tech entrepreneurs cite difficulty in navigating the NHS as a key challenge when it comes to getting their innovative product or service to market. Issues raised include the lack of a clear path or single procurement route for companies looking to demonstrate their product, and many entrepreneurs report receiving conflicting advice and being passed around the system by staff who are themselves unsure of the correct process.

Dr Forster comments: “The UK is a nation of entrepreneurs; the barrier to medical innovation is not making discoveries and developing new technologies, but getting them accepted into a complex healthcare system. However there is a more that SMEs can do to maximise their chances. A great idea backed up by great science is only the start of the process; you also need to be clear about what gives your product an advantage over what is already available and how that addresses clinical and patient needs. Understanding the market is a crucial early steps to success.”

Orthopaedic surgeon and digital health entrepreneur Matt Prime has experience on both sides of this issue and adds: “It always struck me as crazy that I could book a flight using my phone yet when I was at work I used scraps of paper and a pencil. On one particularly day, I had 25 plus patients who I had diligently recorded in my notebook, before scribing them onto the whiteboard and then further completing a handwritten theatre list. I came in early the next day to prepare for the morning trauma handover and was greeted by the cleaner diligently cleaning my ‘messy whiteboard’. Profanity and panic were the result.”

Prime continues: “As a doctor I have been able to speak to and present at lots of orthopaedic departmental meetings. Senior clinicians are broadly supportive of implementation, but there is generally a breakdown when it comes to ‘who pays’ and ‘who to speak to’. It seems to me hospital managers and IT managers are scared to try a new idea for fear of being blamed if it fails. The thing that would improve our business journey is knowing who to approach in a hospital and what they need us to do. I feel frustrated that the NHS is missing out on so many innovative ideas because it doesn’t want to do business with small enterprises.”

To help MedCity is launching its own Top Tips guide for health entrepreneurs for navigating the NHS at today’s WIRED Health event in London. These include:

  • Do your market research
  • Understand the multiple entry points
  • Use practitioners and influencers
  • Understanding commissioning and procurement
  • Design a pilot or case study
  • Avoid unpaid pilots and, if unavoidable, negotiate payback based on results
  • For digital products, consider extra issues such as privacy and security, which purchasers are likely to raise
  • Don’t underestimate change management
  • Don’t assume trusts talk to each other – be prepared to repeat the process

To find out more you can find the full report and guide on the MedCity website at: www.medcitylondon.com/news

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