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New guide helps unlock NHS for innovators to accelerate uptake of digital health technology

Comprehensive access landscape map will help entrepreneurs get digital health technologies to patients and healthcare professionals.

Bracknell, UK, 30 November 2020 – A new guide for digital health innovators launched today by Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) provides a comprehensive assessment of the English health system, pooling key stakeholder insights and signposting to further information for entrepreneurs to overcome barriers to the adoption of new technologies.

The new, free to download guide features contributions from Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), experts in digital and data and successful healthcare innovators and aims to optimise innovator opportunities and help them plot a clear pathway for digital health technologies to improve services and reach patients. The Innovator’s Guide aims to help build a sustainable healthcare fit for the future, set out in the government’s Life Science Industrial Strategy. [1]

Guy Boersma, Managing Director of Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network said, “The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic highlights the critical role of digital technology in driving the transformation of health and care services – enabling professionals to stay connected with patients, supporting online services and giving people greater control over their own care. This is exactly why AHSNs were established, and working in partnership we are making significant inroads into supporting the spread of transformative technologies: for example over the past six months we have supported the national rollout of electronic repeat dispensing and access to video and online consultations in almost every GP practice. However, the health and care system is complex to navigate and so it is useful for innovators to have the advice, support and signposting they need, so we can match proven solutions to health challenges as quickly as possible. With this in mind we welcome the Guide, the knowledge it shares along with effective approaches and best practice within digital healthcare.”

As public reliance on technologies is at an all-time high due to the need for increased remote healthcare during the pandemic,[ii],[iii] the time is now for everyone involved in patient care to work together and overcome barriers to innovation. In December 2019, NHS Digital reported that just 15 per cent of primary care appointments during the month had taken place by phone or online. By April 2020, this increased to 49 per cent. Use of health innovations online has also increased in recent months, with Diabetes UK’s Know Your Risk tool showing a huge 637% increase in usage from end of July to the end of September, compared to the two months previously.[iv]

Supporting digital innovations is a government priority and organizations like DigitalHealth.London have been set up to help increase health entrepreneurs’ confidence in digital. The Digital Pioneer Fellowship, sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim, is championing 37 change makers employed by NHS organisations in London and the South East to design and lead digital transformation projects.

Uday Bose, Boehringer Ingelheim UK General Manager says: “COVID-19 has forced us all to live differently and digital technology has been a key enabler of this. Without doubt it is the greatest driver of accelerating tomorrow’s healthcare improvements. It’s great to see the huge impetus behind digital innovation in the NHS and as a family owned, purpose led and innovation driven company we are committed to helping improve the health of people now and for future generations and digital transformation supports this ambition. The new Innovator’s Guide is a culmination of months of interviews and insight gathering from NHS stakeholders and tech innovators and we hope it will accelerate digital health adoption.”

There are great examples of digital health technologies contributing to greater efficiency, cost-savings and sustainability within the NHS. Digital records innovation company, Patients Know Best (PKB), set up by a fellow of BI’s Making More Health initiative, partnered with NHS Digital to transform healthcare in Nottinghamshire, saving £100,000 per organisation each year for the Integrated Care System (ICS)[v] by increasing digital processes and interactions, coupled with supporting the local population to access digital services and reduce its overall environmental impact.

Dr. Mohammad Al-Ubaydli, CEO and Founder, Patients Know Best (PKB) states, “Our service was built on necessity to help patients access and share their own records - most of which have been locked away in paper form in a GP’s filing system for years. Since founding Patients Know Best in 2008, patients have the ability to move between cities and even nations, not only with a passport of identification but with a PKB digital health record that has become the gateway for joined-up care. If we can continue to overcome the barriers so patients can benefit from innovation in a collaborative way, the possibilities are endless. I’m thankful to Boehringer Ingelheim for offering PKB the opportunity to innovate in this way and as result, empowering patients with access and control of their personal health records.”

The Innovators Guide can be downloaded here

[i] Life sciences: industrial strategy 2017. Available online at Last accessed October 2020.

[ii] NHS England. Around one million downloads of fitness app during lockdown as people stay fit. July 2020. Available online at Last accessed October 2020.  

[iii] Health Service Journal. Pandemic leads to huge change in patient and GP behaviour. April 2020. Available online at Last accessed October 2020. 

[iv] NHS England. Surge in people checking their risk of type 2 diabetes. Available online at Last accessed October 2020.

[v] The Tinder Foundation, Health & Digital: Reducing Inequalities, Improving Society, 2016. Value for money was measured using cost and efficiency savings and RoI calculated at 6:1 or £6.40 for every £1 invested by Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICS.