As new models of care and management continue to develop within our health and social care system, the ability to encourage and drive innovation is more important than ever. The greatest potential for innovations in healthcare are ‘combinatorial’ – those that combine multiple approaches.
The main challenges facing the sector were an aging population and the workforce, Pam Garside told Care Conversation delegates – “where it will come from, and how much robotic and tech support there’ll be”. Added to this were issues of how to engage people in their own health and responsible use of tech and data.
“The NHS is a behemoth and the care sector is fragmented, essentially a cottage industry in many parts,” she said. “People in other sectors don’t get the precious nature of data in the NHS. Mark Zuckerberg said, ‘Move fast and break things’. We can’t do that in health.” Companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon were all now getting into health, she said. “And they have a lot of money.”
Areas ripe for innovation included genomics, personalisation, precision medicine, platforms connecting the workforce to patients and clients, and monitoring tech in the home and self-pay care market. “I think AI has so much potential,” she said. “There will have to be insurance mechanisms and government will have to address that, although they’re scared of it. But it’s ripe for innovation.”
What was always essential, however, was reaching the right decision makers, she stressed. “The more people in a room, the less likely you are to get a decision. But equally, a ‘no’ from one part of the NHS isn’t a ‘no’ from all of it. You can never say, ‘Don’t go into the NHS’, but there is this optimism of ‘I’ve sold into one trust so everything’s going to be fine’, and it’s not.”
It was also important to “beware the death spiral of pilots”, she warned. “You have companies that are always doing the next pilot, but they’re not growing at all, just surviving.” Partnering with the bigger private sector was a good idea, she told the seminar, and also with universities. “Go to everything, get exposed, get mentioned.”
Examples of start ups in the care sector, meanwhile, included Cera, HomeTouch, Heartfelt, Kraydel and MySense, while Amazon was working with Hampshire County Council’s social care department to use Amazon Echo in people’s homes.
One huge asset for health and social care in terms of attracting innovation, however, was that “people really want to work in it,” she said. “It’s positive, people want to be involved – everyone has a family member with Alzheimer’s.” Overall, the scope for AI was enormous, she stated. “Every day you read something about its applications. I can see why Blockchain would be good for health, but we’re not quite there yet.”
Another key issue would inevitably be the availability of data and who owns it, along with regulation for mobile health apps – “there’s a lot of wearable tech and Internet of Things platforms.
“So who will be the great innovators?” she continued. “I don’t think – even though they have a lot of money – it will be big pharma. I think Google will be, Apple, Telefónica, Samsung. But I think Amazon is the one to watch. When they bought PillPack the stock of CVS and Walgreens plummeted. They already own lots of our data, and I believe they’ll make big plays into the insurance sector. I think they’ll disrupt many markets.”