Patient outcomes will drive the future of healthtech


Coronavirus has put the health of the UK population firmly at the top of everyone’s agenda. Daily statistics read out on the news detailing the impact of the virus is testament to the fact that patient outcomes now matter to us all.

Response from the NHS has been admirable; one of the world’s largest healthcare providers has done its best dealing with the pandemic effectively. Its systems, people and organisations have had a razor-sharp focus on tackling COVID-19. This has created a catalyst for change, accelerating the uptake of technology, use of data and collaboration across sectors.

“In the last six months, the focus on clinical outcomes and excellence has been unprecedented. This has happened at pace and at scale, with a renewed focus on the patient. There’s also been a real readiness to change during this pandemic. A huge number of stakeholders within the NHS want to do things differently and be innovative,” says David Oates, UK group managing director at B. Braun Medical Ltd, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of healthcare solutions.

“We cannot lose this momentum. There’s so much potential going forwards. Partnerships are key to this process. Through collaborative and constructive work alongside the NHS, we can improve patient outcomes for the long term. Certainly, the healthtech industry has a significant part to play.”

Through collaborative and constructive work alongside the NHS, we can improve patient outcomes for the long term

With the COVID crisis still lingering, the NHS is under increasing pressure to do more, reduce healthcare inequalities, improve the quality of care nationally, manage the pandemic and ramp up planned care that has been curtailed. The healthtech sector has stepped up during this time with the common purpose of supporting the NHS to deliver care.

“But we need to do more work as an industry to develop evidence on how much the NHS stands to gain by using existing or new technology effectively. We have to take more responsibility. Value-based procurement is coming of age around the world. Far more can be achieved by buying and implementing healthtech based on outcomes, rather than competing on the price of a product,” says Oates at B. Braun, which sells 5,000 different products covering most therapeutic areas, 95 per cent of which are manufactured by the company.

For instance, take infusion pumps. B. Braun sells thousands of smart devices to the NHS. They are used to deliver medicines to patients in hospitals countrywide on a daily basis. These can be connected to wireless networks so they can be updated automatically with the latest software, input data into electronic patient records and be calibrated with medication error-reduction libraries.

“At a generous estimate, only 30 per cent are used in this way. They’re purchased because they’re smart capable. If deployed in the right way they could save the NHS time and money. Yet the procurement process is often based on the purchase of the electronic device itself, rather than on reducing drug-delivery errors or time saved searching for patient records,” says Oates.

“The big challenge when it comes to evolving technology and innovation, is how do you make sure it’s used properly and has an impact on patient outcomes, productivity and safety. We need to convince the NHS to procure on this basis. For that we must provide more evidence, more data in partnership, so the full benefits are realised.”

Beyond value-based procurement, COVID-19 has also been a real driver for supporting patients at home. It’s in the interests of the NHS and industry to deliver high-quality healthcare in more efficient settings beyond hospitals. Clinical care in the community will be critical going forwards, as will the integration of care systems. This involves more joined-up and localised thinking involving the NHS and local authorities.

“Coronavirus is making things crystal clear: local data and local public health systems are more effective in dealing with outbreaks that are localised. This is true of healthcare in general. It needs to be tailored and priorities set to deal with local needs, especially where healthcare inequalities exist and need to be tackled,” says Chris Ibbotson, outpatient division manager at B. Braun, a family-owned company, active in the sector since 1839.

For instance, there are more than 2.5 million people living with cancer in the UK, just over a quarter have chemotherapy. Care at home is desirable, especially for those over 75 who struggle to travel for chemotherapy appointments. This accounts for more than a third of all patients.

“It is possible with the right healthtech to deliver chemotherapy infusions at home and monitor patients. The key here is what the patient is comfortable with. Personalised medicine is becoming increasingly important. People are now more willing to participate in their own healthcare,” says Graeme Cameron, B. Braun’s hospital care division manager.

“At the same time, we need to eliminate the inefficiencies that exist between healthcare and patients. It has to be as efficient, as targeted and as resourceful as it can be,” adds Michael Parden, Aesculap division manager at B. Braun, which is on the board of the Association of British Healthtech industries.

The potential for healthtech is increasingly apparent in more areas, for example with B. Braun’s digital rehabilitation support for knee and hip patients. This uses a range of motion sensors and a downloadable app for a patient’s smartphone. It can track exercise, log pain and remain in contact with hospitals via a messaging function.

“We can monitor whether patients are doing exercise to build up the muscle before treatment and whether they’re doing exercise after their operation. It is all done remotely and can reduce the need for outpatient and community physiotherapy appointments,” says Oates.

“If we could do this for 10 or 15 per cent of all knee replacements on a day-case basis, it would take pressure off the rest of the NHS. It may only apply to a small cohort of patients, but it can have a significant impact on the overall system. Looking to the future we can achieve so much more.”

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