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Smoothing the digital health innovator’s journey


Dr Victoria Betton is the founder and director of mHabitat, an NHS-hosted specialist in the application of digital to health and social care. Here she tells us why all need to work together to bring about digital revolution in the NHS

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

The focus on digital technologies to contribute to the effectiveness and efficiency of health and social care services is set out clearly in the recently-published NHS Long Term Plan. There’s certainly determination across the system to transform the way in which digital innovation can be realised much more quickly, so that patients and citizens can access improved services. However, no one entity has overall responsibility for the end-to-end realisation of the digital pathway, and that is why we believe collaboration across system stakeholders is key. At mHabitat we endeavour to be the glue that enables different parts of the system to collaborate together to make good things happen.

An innovator’s perspective 

In our insight work with innovators, we found that they make use of multiple support mechanisms, and there is a wide range available. Policies, guidance, regulatory standards, information and support are all available to digital health innovators, however they may be dispersed across the internet or simply hard to find – and in some cases, not very easy to understand!

Dr Victoria Betton

During 2018, mHabitat undertook a study in partnership with NHS Digital to understand the landscape from an innovator’s perspective, and to investigate what more can be done to support these innovators and entrepreneurs wishing to navigate the NHS.

The key findings

During our study, innovators told us that they need:

  • Capacity (time and resources) and capability (knowledge and expertise) within partner NHS organisations to collaborate with digital health innovators
  • Collaboration with service improvement teams from within partner NHS organisations to help redesign clinical workflows and care pathways to maximise the benefit from a digital product or service
  • The infrastructure in place (for example, WiFi and smartphones) within the NHS, as well as expertise in information governance, regulation and interoperability for digital products and services
  • Nationally endorsed programmes and accelerators (for example the NHS England Test Beds programme) which provide space and cover for digital innovation to thrive and help partners to manage risk at a local level
  • Guidance in order to make a clear case for return on investment, and to demonstrate the impact of digital products and services as an important factor that should be designed in at the earliest stages of development
  • Direction regarding sustainability and commercial models for digital products and services. It should be noted that such models are still emerging, and simply having a good idea is not sufficient for implementation and adoption.

Our interviews with innovators demonstrated in one form or another that forming trusted and reciprocal relationships between multiple stakeholders over time is pivotal to the successful implementation and adoption of digital products and services.

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In addition to its ongoing commitment in supporting people-centred digital innovation in health and social care, mHabitat is partnering with the Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) to deliver Propel@YH – the region’s first digital health accelerator programme.

This Leeds-based initiative will facilitate its business cohort in navigating the complex healthcare landscape and presenting an NHS-relevant business case. Through bespoke support and expert inputs on the key topics which all innovators must address, they’ll be able to grow their business and market presence.

Based at Co>Space North, our new digital health and tech-for-good collaboration space, we hope that Propel@YH will be an important part of the community we are building to help innovators collaborate with system partners. Coming together to share learning, build trust, and collaborate is essential to improving NHS services enabled by digital.

About the author

With well over 100 years experience between us, we've been around the editorial and medical blocks a few times. But we're still as keen as any young pup to root out what's new and inspiring.

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