Opportunity in adversity: how Covid-19 will change NHS innovation forever

6th April, 2020

The Covid-19 outbreak has meant that in just a few weeks, the NHS has achieved something pretty remarkable – a wholesale shift to providing care via digital health. The shock and rapid spread of the coronavirus crisis has seen some of the cultural barriers to tech adoption breaking down, as both GPs and outpatient clinics all over the country have had to embrace the likes of patient video consultations and digital prescriptions with far more urgency than before, in order to abide by current lockdown restrictions.

With non-coronavirus clinical trials broadly on hold as we tackle this initial emergency period of the outbreak, the medtech industry might be forgiven for thinking that they too should press pause. However, it is now more important than ever to feed the innovation pipeline, and there is work that medtech innovators should be doing now to ensure they are in a strong position to support the NHS further down the line.

As the emergency phase stabilises, the NHS will turn its attention to how it can manage patients from their homes, and it will be looking for ideas and support from the medtech community to do so. As focus is placed on digital health products, demand is likely to be highest for Covid-19 related issues such as respiratory disease and mental health, but also going beyond this to address major challenges such as diabetes and social care.

At this watershed moment in NHS history, it is vital that innovators are proactively seeking the funding and support available to them, and taking the appropriate steps to position themselves as a source of support. This will include considerations around regulatory requirements, maintaining development teams, supply chains and R&D remotely, and carrying out the groundwork to show evidence of the benefits of new technologies.

This crisis has proved yet again that with the right stimulus and support, NHS staff can be hugely adaptable, nimble and innovative. In the coming months, new ways of keeping patients healthy in their own homes will be required, so it is vital that the medtech industry readies itself now to meet this resurgent need.

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