Public Services

Opportunity to get in bed with healthcare innovators

Jessica Figueras Published 13 March 2018

Jessica Figueras discusses the opportunities arising from Phase 2 of the Test Bed programme

The Test Bed programme, which funds cross-sector consortia to test out digital health and social care innovations in real-world circumstances, was originally introduced in the Five Year Forward View and now also forms part of the Industrial Strategy.

Phase 1 saw funding for sevenTest Beds across England, employing IoT, wearables, predictive algorithms and mobile applications to satisfy a variety of use-cases in settings from 1300 to 214,700 participants. Each consortium comprised between two and eight participants, including NHS bodies, not-for-profits, academic teams, local development agencies, small healthtech specialists and three more familiar names, namely IBM, DXC and Arqiva.

Now applications for Phase 2 have opened with from Innovate UK, £1.5m of which is on behalf of NHS England specifically for type 2 diabetes projects. Eligible projects can range from £500k - £1.5m and must last no longer than 18 months.

So who should apply? The short answer is - potentially any solutions vendor intending to seek its fortune in the English health market.

Projects must align to a challenge identified in the Five Year Forward View, and products included must be market-ready. That means a wide variety of already commercially-available products could be in scope, including patient flow, e-rostering, medicines management and so on. But importantly, although this is not a procurement, the programme has a great deal to teach vendors about how they will need to play in the future emerging health and social care market.

It means learning how to work in place-based consortia, with third sector and academic partners which have quite different cultures, capabilities and expectations. It means saring nicely with data. And commitment to robust evaluation, meaning RCTs, propensity-matching and other rigorous statistical techniques which go far above and beyond what vendors are usually subjected to. The negative headline results of Whole Systems Demonstrator after 2011 were enough to scare some vendors out of the emerging healthcare telematics market. But 'realist' models of testing and evaluation are a big theme in healthcare right now: those intending to play at the innovative end of the market need to get with the programme.






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