There are lessons to be learned from how new technology is procured for the NHS.
As part of a team that introduces innovative products, treatments and technologies to the NHS, Nick Allen, procurement adviser at Trustech, offers this advice on how to select the best innovations.
1. Collaboration should be your top priority
Establish collaboration between your team and the developer of the innovation at an early stage. This helps ensure business priorities are identified and appropriate adoption methods are understood. Just as NHS procurement teams seek input from a wide range of clinical resources to help select, evaluate and adopt innovations, others should consult to ensure the innovation will improve the business offering and offer the required savings.
2. Does the innovation address an unmet need?
A golden rule for NHS procurement teams is to involve clinicians to qualify the scale of needs and if
any other evidence is required. Before accepting what is presented as a problem, ask a closely related department to corroborate that there is in fact a problem. Not only will they be able to offer valuable insight, they will often appreciate learning more about the processes and evaluations that go into the innovation’s development. You could even run competitions to uncover the most pressing unmet needs from within your organisation and network with innovation experts to find solutions.
3. Focus on the evidence
Patient care will always be the most important factor for the NHS, regardless of the financial climate. An innovation must be supported by clinical evidence demonstrating its benefits and improvements over existing treatments and pathways. This is an approach that should be adopted by any business: will the innovation provide your customers with a better outcome?
Bear in mind that it can be a challenge to collect evidence, especially for SMEs. So, if you see that an innovation has potential to improve your business offering or cost-effectiveness but has limited evidence to support it, consider whether you have the resources to implement a small-scale test.
4. Look at the lifetime costs
The procurement process should be set up to consider the wider picture. A new product or treatment for the NHS may cost more on a per-unit basis than current methods, but if it reduces time in hospital, associated complications and re-admission rates, it may still represent an overall saving. Take the UroLift system for treating an enlarged prostate. The consumables required are higher than the conventional surgical procedure, but it takes just 30 minutes, has reduced associated complications and eliminates the need for patients to stay in hospital.
• What is the cost of doing nothing?
• How does the proposed solution offer an advantage over currently approved or existing solutions?
• What is the cost of this solution and how will it be funded?
• What savings will the innovation realise?
• What benefits will be delivered?
If you can answer these questions favourably, you’ll be on the right path to finding those innovations that will have a positive impact.