We were very pleased to be invited to the first NHS Commissioning Board Entrepreneurs Day this week. With an attendance list that read like a who’s who of healthcare startups, it was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about other projects. There is lots to gain from working together and we’re hoping to work closely with some of the people we met in the future.
Although we were all a little unsure what to expect the thing that struck me was the humility and determination radiating from the team. If anyone is in doubt about the reality or sincerity of some of the plans I urge you to go and listen or work with them. To have the head of a major government department stand up, make jokes and actually listen to the audience is deeply refreshing. There are some great initiatives from the top – such as a space for health startups in Leeds. Anyone starting a company knows how important a good space to work is. Moreover, one of the big challenges identified in the afternoon workshop is knowing what to build for the health service – positioning agile, lean startups close to the digital heart of the NHS will doubtless lead to unexpected innovation and natural efficiencies.
The room broke into groups and I helped facilitate a session talking about de-risking and correctly incentivising hospitals to use SME’s. We had some really interesting discussions which honed in on the idea of organisational friction. A common story emerged of a manger or clinician, keen to try a new idea, but stopped by organisational inertia, paperwork, or fear thereof. We discussed how to avoid that.
The concept of a curated storefront, to aid discovery and dissemination of original products was thought a good start. Building on that, products would be lightly pre-validated, accredited as safe, and finally linked to a risk insurance fund. That would be a bond put up by the CB which would insure the trust against SME’s not delivering or going out of business. The storefront would also pre-populate the common parts of a business case. This combination would significantly reduce the internal manpower required to try an idea, while de-risking it for the trust. Pre-validated products avoid the need for current complex procurement processes which exist to insulate trusts from these risks, but end up playing into the hands of large companies who can afford to spend man weeks on documentation.
Although the plans are complex and the challenges daunting we have the depth of knowledge and talent in the UK to achieve what is being asked. By using small companies, versed in agile development techniques and hungry to prove themselves I genuinely believe we can change the landscape of healthcare IT – and quickly.