There has it seems, never been a better time to be in digital health. And for medtech players involved in the design and manufacture of healthtech products, there are significant opportunities on the horizon. With the NHS continuing its drive for increased innovation, the conditions are being created to help manufacturers take advantage of the growth of healthtech in the UK.
Of course, making innovative healthcare solutions is nothing new to the medtech sector, so what’s changed? Earlier this year NHS revealed its Long Term Plan. Its aim is to speed up the route by which innovation reaches the patient. Crucial to the plan is the role of the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) – the link between academia, industry and the NHS – who have been guaranteed funding until 2023 to get innovations to patients as quickly as possible.
Also playing a fundamental role is the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC). Set up in 2016, the AAC ‘brings industry, government and the NHS together to remove barriers to the uptake of innovations. This enables NHS patients to have faster access to innovations that can transform care’. The remit of the AAC has now stepped up with an over-arching function across the entire UK health innovation network, ‘providing more joined-up support for innovators and setting the strategy for innovation in the health system’.
The AAC identifies and supports innovation that it feels will have the ’biggest impact on patient health outcomes and NHS services’. These include medical technologies, digital products and diagnostic products. Using a range of platforms, such as HealthTechConnect and UK Pharma Scan, businesses can register their products – if the AAC sees significant potential they will receive guidance from the AAC on how to get to both market and NHS patients, as quickly as possible.
The public perception of digital products is positive also. A recent report from Stada Health highlighted that more than half the people in the UK have a positive attitude towards the future of health and 50% of them would consider the use of technology in healthcare situations. Web content editor Ian Bolland spoke to Roger Scarlett-Smith, executive vice-president of Thornton & Ross, where the report was unveiled. He said: “The findings of this study demonstrate that we have every reason to feel optimistic regarding the future of health in the UK…Health education and literacy in the UK – particularly among the younger generations – are key to addressing any remaining concerns so that we can look to the future of health with confidence.
“This, combined with the digital transformation enabled by real-time data measurement, means we are in a better position than ever to positively impact our health – rather than responding to illness, we believe the future is likely to revolve around sustaining wellbeing. The insight gathered through this report enables Thornton & Ross and the Stada Group to be at the forefront of understanding the consumer behaviour that will drive this health model.”
It’s an exciting time to be part of the digital health and healthtech landscapes. According to the ABHI – which represents the healthtech industry, the sector now employs 127,400 people in 3,860 companies, with a combined turnover of £24 billion. For a relatively new sector, these are impressive figures. As a comparison, according to figures from the British Plastics Federation, the UK plastics sector has a turnover of £23.5 billion, employing around 170,000 people.
For Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for health and social care, ensuring the success of the healthtech sector is crucial to the future of the UK. He said: “So, for me, making sure that Britain remains at the forefront of healthtech, biotech, genomics, AI, scientific research, and healthcare innovation, isn’t just about ensuring we have a world-class NHS – as important as that is. It isn’t just about ensuring we have a strong economy – as important as that is.
“It’s about making sure that Britain wins the 4th Industrial Revolution. That we create the high-skilled, well-paid, tech jobs of tomorrow here. That British businesses shape the technology of tomorrow, and British values drive progress for the benefit of everyone.
“And, I believe, one of the ways we do that, is by embracing innovation in healthcare.
“By opening up our health service to innovators, wherever we may find them: business, academia, or from anywhere around the world.”
Pulling together innovation and creating the conditions for healthtech to grow and thrive, is welcome news for the medtech manufacturing sector. The fact that healthtech has the ability to make significant, long-term contributions to the future of the UK, speaks for itself. Is there any other industry currently in the spotlight in the same way?
Of course innovators are just one part of the process. As healthcare sectors in both the UK and Ireland see demand rise from both clinicians and patients, the economic benefits reach further into the manufacturing supply chain. Designers, materials suppliers, sensor specialists along with the growing number of pharma companies looking to take advantage of the booming digital health sector, are just some of the examples of the expertise fuelling the healthtech economy.
Ireland is also a tour de force within the healthtech arena. According to Enterprise Ireland, “the country’s world-leading position in the medtech sector has been nurtured through a combination of state planning and partnership with multinationals, that now positions the healthcare and life sciences sector as one of Ireland’s strongest and most important business industries. It employs some 38,000 people in around 350 companies. That makes Ireland the largest employer of medtech professionals in Europe per capita. Ireland is also the second largest exporter of medtech products in Europe, with annual exports of €12.6 billion to over 100 countries globally.”
In 2017 the Irish government outlined the future of healthcare which placed a strong focus on healthtech: “Digital health solutions can support more efficient processes, empowering patients in managing their care and accessing their own medical records, as well as facilitating the provision of services in more appropriate care settings closer to the patient’s home.”
Only a few years ago we joked about the digital doctor seeing us now but thanks to time, pressures on healthcare waiting lists, clinicians’ and patients’ desire for better care, and how it’s delivered, the digital health sector holds promise for both the UK and Irish economies.
Original Article: (https://www.med-technews.com/features/why-the-time-is-now-for-digital-health/)