Why do we accelerate medtech innovation?
Covid-19 has prompted a surge of innovation across the healthcare system, with medical technology at the front and centre of our response to the pandemic, supporting those affected by the virus and ensuring patients continue to receive the care they need remotely.
The benefits of medtech, however, have been recognised for some time.
Our Keeping Britain Working report, published in 2017, revealed that £476 million in savings per year could be generated in reduced long-term health costs and benefit payments from the use of just eight technologies alone. Some of these savings stem from delivering treatment more efficiently, which will be essential for the NHS in its journey to post-pandemic recovery.
Supporting uptake and use
The MTG has long campaigned for a better system for the uptake and use of medical technology.
In 2016, our Deja Review report recommended a single system and advised that focussing on specific products and technologies is unlikely to achieve the level of impact needed to make real change across the healthcare system.
Although much work has gone into supporting the use of innovative technology across the NHS, five years on, many of these many recommendations still apply.
With a culture of innovation now emerging, we must now use this opportunity to change to a new system that is clear and navigable for innovators and encourages uptake of technology. Above all, we must ensure we listen to patients and put them at the centre.
Our latest set of recommendations – the Medical Technology Access Accelerator – outlines eleven ways to stimulate greater access to innovation, including:
- A single front door: navigating the system is one of the biggest challenges faced by innovators. The innovation pathway should have a single entry point that allows for effective triage of devices and provides innovators with a route to patients, relevant agencies, and support.
- A single model: the system needs to be clearly defined and understood by innovators and the NHS. While there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, there should be a well-defined model in operation that provides clarity on when to engage and the likely outcomes.
- Rapid pathway to decision making: the assessment and commissioning of devices is a complex process. At present, it can take many years to get a positive commissioning policy, further hindered by the lack of connection between NICE evaluations and the NHS enabling access for medical technologies. Delays of such can be hugely detrimental to the ongoing use of a product and mean patients miss out on potentially life-saving treatment. The process, criteria, and those involved in decisions should be set out from the onset, with the length of time required for decisions to be made factored in to allow provision during this period.
- Comprehensive system approach: Current NHS mechanisms to support the uptake and use of innovative technology are severely limited in scope; the Accelerated Access Pathway for instance supports fewer than ten technologies per year. To make a real system-wide impact, the model should be comprehensive and cover a large number of technologies each year.
- A patient focus: Often patients are the last to be consulted on the technology available to them; they should be at the heart of decisions around a technology’s adoption and evaluation of its true impact. All information on the treatments and technology available to the patient should be easy to access and understand to ensure they can make informed decisions around their healthcare.
We also recommend that decisions on procuring a technology should be based on its total value to the healthcare system, not unit cost, as well as ways of ensuring that proven technologies receive similar funding support to medicines.
The potential of medical technology has never been clearer and, as the NHS builds back, we now have an opportunity to create a more efficient health service.
We must grasp this with both hands and implement a system that works for the health service as well as innovators, and above all puts patients at its heart.
A copy of the full Medical Technology Access Accelerator report can be downloaded here.