The UK health industry is fuelled by pioneers. It may not always seem it, but through every sector of health, there are industrious people, channelling their enthusiasm and their creativity to address some of the 'bigger' health questions facing the health system, healthcare professionals and consumers/patients.
As far back as 2004, Derek Wanless's report for the Government, 'Securing Good Health for the Whole Population' reflected on the importance of information management and technology (IM&T) as a 'massive driver of change'. At the time comparisons were drawn with the banking industry and how the pace of change was empowering consumers to take more control.
Less than 10 years later, in 2011 the NHS Chief Executive issued a report in response to the call for 'evidence and ideas' on the adoption and diffusion of innovation in the NHS. Here, the report concluded that it was important to look at 'radical uncomfortable solutions, as well as improving existing systems incrementally'. Some 14 recommendations were made, from funding and budgeting enhancements and the procurement on innovations to improving horizontal knowledge exchange, evidence around innovation and a culture of learn by failures.
Then in 2014, former Major of London Boris Johnson started an initiative between academic and lifescience companies in the south-east of England, supported by a further UK Government call for tech startups to help improve UK citizen's quality of life, supported by a £175,000 funding round backed by Innovate UK.
The latest round of 22 health innovations to watch, published in Techworld, offers a plethora of start ups, striving to create momentum in the UK.
DoctorLink looks to improve the patient experience and free up time by providing personalized medical advice and digital triage via an online tool. DrDoctor takes a different lens addressing the 70% of cancellations made within 24 hours of an appointment, freeing up much required consultation times. Babylon Health's app meanwhile seeks to connect patients directly with doctors at time that suit them, for a small payment, as does Doctify, whileEcho offers repeat prescriptions,
Behaviour change apps are designed to motivate more patients to actively participate in their health, from diabetes (OurPath), physiotherapy (Physitrack), blood tests and baseline health monitoring (Thriva), health and wellbeing monitoring (Ada).
And so the list goes on. This week the FDA has also declared it will work in partnership with Roche and Johnson & Johnson and companies like Apple, Fitbit and Samsung in a US digital health pilot programme to put in place pragmatic way of evaluating digital health products that could speed up their approval by scrapping the need for a pre-market submission and allow lower levels of submission content.
The reality is there is no shortage of ideas, appetite and heroic people battling through hurdles and failure in the pursuit of those solutions to problems with beset so much of healthcare.
The problem remains however that implementation and mass adoption, overlaid within the complexities of our health systems mean that only the very few deliver opportunities to the masses, as the get stuck in zones of 'pilot' and 'prototype'.
Innovation may fuel new ways of doing things, but only if we fix the doing environment, and can motivate systems to embrace change.
Ideas are literally everywhere.
"We are not tinkers who merely patch and mend what is broken... we must be watchmen, guardians of the life and the health of our generation, so that stronger and more able generations may come after" Dr Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910), The First Woman Doctor