Greater use of health technology ‘could save 20,000 lives a year’

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Greater use of health technologies could prevent 20,000 deaths a year and save the NHS billions of pounds, a new report has found.

The UK has a “good track record” of innovation but struggles to keep up with international peers in providing quick and equitable access to new innovations, its report, The Innovation Lottery, found.

“If we were to match the performance of our international peers we could save an estimated 20,000 avoidable deaths each year,” the report states.

Compared to countries with similar health systems, the UK “is not using the practices and innovations available to it in the best way”.

This includes treatments, service design, care pathways and technology.

The report makes a number of policy recommendations, including bespoke time for clinicians to focus on innovation and adoption, adding more consistency on responsibility for innovation is needed.

“Trusts might have a director of transformation, an innovation manager or a chief information officer. Others will have no such role. Very few will have specific roles for clinicians interested in championing the spread of innovation, despite clear evidence that clinical championing is one of the most effective catalysts for spread of service changes and technology adoption,” it states.

The report also notes health innovation over the last decade has had a “supplier side focus” with less done to “empower the NHS frontline”- the so-called “demand side”.

The government’s focus on national strategy and supply-side problems has been “detriment of empowering the demand-side” and ensuring those tasked with implementing innovation can do so.

It found investment in the capacity of the NHS through science, technology and health management will be “central” to the Covid-19 recovery, with conditions including cancer and cardiovascular disease “significantly impacted” by drops in referrals and appointments.

“A key element of that will be learning from Covid-19. During the crisis, we adopted and spread some innovations at often unheard of pace. This includes innovations that we’ve been looking to implement for years, including integrated data, digital triage and telehealth,” the report reads.

The report singled out “remarkable” shifts in primary care delivery, highlighting Royal College of GP statistics showing the number of face-to-face appointments has dropped from 71% to 26% during the pandemic.

Successes in this capacity should inform future innovation, it states.

Other policy recommendations included that innovation should be “part of the NHS’s DNA” and greater access to peer support and shared learning through clinical networks.

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