As part of London Tech Week, MedCity, Tech London Advocates and DigitalHealth.London invited panels from the NHS, Corporates and Entrepreneurs to give an innovative and engaging perspective on what it takes to work successfully with big business as well as the NHS. A practical and insightful event, which the audience, of mostly innovators, found refreshing and thought-provoking.

Here are a few of the key takeaways…

The NHS panel (UCLPartners, Patients Know Best, DigitalHealth.London, i4i NIHR, Welsh Government, NHS England) chaired by Sarah Haywood, gave advice ranging from the availability of funding, IT considerations, commissioning within NHS England and Wales as well as learnings from the NHS Innovation Accelerator program.

Funding is always top on the worry list for start-ups.  The good news, is that there is a range of funding available to innovators that not only give grants but also facilitate access to the NHS, eg NIHR i4i program and the SBRI.  Martin Hunt from NIHR i4i said that they put out calls annually for innovations, although the grant and support is attractive, they are not looking for the ‘next mouse trap, they want something that will control the rodent population’!

NHS infrastructure can be complex, however, Jenny Shand advised innovators to take time to understand the right organisation based on the market, also understand where behaviour change is necessary to ensure adoption is successful, this enables you to manage relationships and target the right organisation. Good news in that there are organisations that will help in speeding innovation take-up. Healthy London Partnership, which is a collaboration of London CCGs, Academic Health Science Networks and DigitalHealth.London to name a few. NHS Wales has a different commissioning model and Ifan from NHS Wales encouraged innovators to come to Wales, ‘where things are simpler’! The NHS Innovation Accelerator and Vanguards are already showing positive results and NIA Fellow, Dr Lloyd Humphries, is keen for the next wave of companies to benefit from the programs.

From an IT standpoint, interoperability is the buzzword, in addition to this, app developers need to have patient-centric architecture to allow scaling up the NHS systems and use of established standards and data structures is key to get through the IT procurement requirements.  A question from the audience about technology and the elderly, was met with agreement from the panel that data shows the elderly are not as shy of tech adoption as people may believe and innovators should include them and their needs.

The Innovator panel (Health Unlocked, Cardiocity, Yomp, SVB, GeneAdviser, SilverCloud Health) gave encouragement to the audience as they relayed their experiences and learnings during their innovation journey.

The question about pilots was raised, the rule is that any pilot should have a win-win, for the company and the NHS organisation. In the case of CardioCity, a free pilot was critical to build an evidence base for the business case, so it also depends on the objective of the pilot and the desired outcomes.

Funding can be a sore point for innovators, the need for funding, getting funding and keeping it can be hugely resource-intensive. Some points for consideration included the face that VCs are willing to give advice before approached for investment, to get clarity on expectations can save valuable time. Annette Murphy from SilverCloud said that European investors are more revenue-orientated, so to have a very clear business model is critical. Balancing the time it takes for grant fund applications and reporting on it versus developing a sound commercial proposition is important in the early stages.

Advice on building a value proposition that the NHS will buy into involves understanding the needs of the patient/carer/practitioner and developing the proposition around that. Matt Jameson-Evans from Health Unlocked used early partnerships with patient groups to help define the demand and the value proposition.

With respect to collaborations, the panel were agreed that partnering with organisations that will support you to deliver your business model and help to scale up is a component of success. Say ‘no’ to those that promise but can’t deliver.

Finally, Corporate panel (PwC, Konica, Aviva, J&J) mediated by Padric Gleeson, gave a frank and open perspective on how to approach corporates, what they are looking for and how demand is changing the industry to work more with innovators. Konica being a prime example of where it expanded its scope from cameras to a variety of optical/imaging/measuring technologies with a strong focus on medical imaging devices.

A key message from the panel was for innovators to stop being passionate about their product and start selling their product from the perspective of the patient outcome. It is all about outcomes and impact. The pitch should offer a win-win to all parties.

Are corporates geared up for the demand from millennials? The answer was clear, that millennials are starting to create a heavy digital expectation and so corporates and the NHS will have to meet that demand. The audience was asked how many youngsters would be happy to make an outpatients hospital appointment using a letter or a GP appointment by phone? Not many, Millennials do not have the patience to do things by post or phone, they want immediate responses.

A question from the audience asked the panel whether they had a structured way that an innovator can approach them.  Although the corporates where open to approaches from SMEs, no structured process appeared to exist.  John Shah from Konica was happy being approached directly for an early conversation.

The session ended with a final comment from J&J about how the tech culture and the healthcare culture are distinctly different, one fast and comfortable with risk, the latter slow and risk-averse. It is the joining of these cultures in health tech that is bringing about exciting things.

Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates summed up the event by saying that in Healthtech the NHS is a big market and the NHS is becoming more and more interested in engaging with new ideas and suppliers.  There are many channels to start that engagement.  Stories from the entrepreneurs showed great examples of how to be successful in the route to market and partnering with bigger organisations could open many opportunities.

Allen & Overy also wrote a very extensive summary of the event. Head over to their blog to read it:

About the organisers:

Tech London Advocates is a private sector led coalition of some 3,000 expert individuals from the tech sector and broader community who have committed to championing London’s potential as a world-class hub for tech and digital businesses supporting London’s tech start-ups and high-growth businesses.

DigitalHealth.London is a collaboration between MedCity and London’s three Academic Health Science Networks. It aims to make London the global capital of digital health and has been set up to encourage companies to locate in London and develop  businesses that improve the health and wellbeing of the capital’s citizens.

MedCity is working in partnership with London’s three Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) as part of the DigitalHealth.London programme with a vision for London to become a global centre for the adoption and commercialisation of digital health technologies that enhance the quality of patient care, improve the effi ciency and effectiveness of health and social care services, and generate economic growth.