Are med-tech monopolies stifling innovation in the NHS?

The tech revolution has the potential to breathe new life into every aspect of the NHS – including staff management.

New, smarter, flexible e-rostering platforms are entering the market, and are able to solve stubborn staff management problems. As is the case in most industries, technological innovation is the biggest driver of positive change in healthcare.

But in the NHS, there’s a major stumbling block. Our research indicates that just one legacy provider currently manages e-rostering for 60% of NHS trusts in England – which represents a near-monopoly. And nothing kills innovation more comprehensively than a monopoly provider.

 

Medical Technology Monopolies

 

One step forward, two steps back

The NHS’ Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) campaign is an ambitious project that is aiming for all the right things.

The £385 million programme is now the NHS’ flagship digital project, in which the most digitally advanced trusts are being incentivised to set an example for less advanced trusts. At the core of the model is the idea that trusts are encouraged to innovate, and can then be inspired by one another.

But what’s clear is that this investment demands new ideas. And of the 23 elected GDEs, 12 contracts for e-rostering are held by the same, legacy provider. The fact these GDEs have e-rostering platforms in the first place is certainly positive. But the digital marketplace within NHS trusts has to be more competitive for change to start happening at scale. And currently, it simply isn’t.

 

We’ve already proven that new technology works

First and foremost, better technology saves money – an increasingly scarce resource for trusts. To take just two examples, our tech has saved Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust £1.7 million in just 18 months, and Worcestershire Acute Hospital NHS Trust £2.9 million – plus a 12% reduction in agency spend.

The efficiency with which teams can be built under platforms like ours improves patient care, too. We reduce agency spend, and build frontline teams more quickly – all of which reduces the risk of roster gaps and staff shortages.

So new tech ticks all the right boxes. But that doesn’t answer the key question here: why is a legacy supplier tightening its grip on e-rostering?

It’s clear that a fear of change within trusts remains – and it’s a stagnant but powerful force. There is a perception that new technology is disruptive. There is a concern that new technology is difficult to implement. There is a sense that the benefits don’t justify the perceived risk.

All of this is mistaken. After all, disruption is precisely what NHS technology needs.

 

Tech Revolution

 

 

Easy to implement, easy to use – and more efficient

New technology like ours is built for now – and the future.

That means, like all the technology that’s central to our daily lives, it’s incredibly intuitive. It’s demand-led and activity-based, so complex rosters can be built quickly and easily. Everything can be done in one screen, and the interface is slick and simple. Plus, the system is optimised for different devices – so roster managers or shift workers can even get a clear view of what they need on their smartphones. Clarity is NHS technology for 2018.

So it’s easy to use, but it’s also incredibly easy to implement. First and foremost, the tech wizards behind Clarity focused on creating technology that was not only adaptable to future changes, but that could easily integrate into existing NHS technology and bank software. It just works.

Better still, we appreciate the importance of the human touch, so deploy our implementation team to handle any and every teething issue. With them on hand, there really is no need to fear the future. They make everything simple, just like our technology does.

Ultimately, you end up with technology that’s easy to use and delivers meaningful results, every time – whether you’re trying to move agency staff to a bank, reduce agency spend or simply modernise your existing platform. You can see all the facts and figures that prove our worth in our case studies.

 

The NHS needs innovation. Innovation needs competition.

It’s true of any industry that when you have one business that controls more than half of the market, there is a threat to healthy competition, and therefore a threat to innovation. And competition is healthy for everyone, including monopoly suppliers. It forces them to improve and innovate; it keeps them on their toes.

We can see in other tech-driven industries how competition brings about more innovation, more quickly. And we need the same ethos in our NHS. Our technology will keep getting better if it’s given the opportunity to prove itself. The same can be said for our competitors, and a whole host of med-tech pioneers.

Monopolies prevent innovation. Healthy competition in the med-tech space is the only way forward if we are to revolutionise hospital efficiency. At the end of the day, it’s not about who rules the roost, but who makes lasting changes and patient care its top priority.

06/06/2018


Irina Buzdugan