Thriving and vibrant it may be, but there would have to be a very good reason to persuade me to spend a rainy night in London, fighting my way through rush hour traffic whilst holiday party-goers navigated their way to their Christmas celebrations. The London MedTech: Innovation & Investment Trends event, hosted by MedCity and the South East Health Technologies Alliance (SEHTA) at the stunning City Hall on the South Bank, did just that.
Launched by the Mayor of London in 2013 with the capital’s three Academic Health Science Centres – Imperial College, King’s College and University College London – MedCity is promoting life science investment, entrepreneurship and industry in London and the south east of England, alongside SEHTA who provides innovation surgeries for companies wishing to bring new products or technologies to the UK’s NHS.
A panel of industry experts chaired by SEHTA’s CEO, Dr David Perry, provided me with amazing insight into how London, which has 125 healthcare companies within its boundaries, is leading the way in revolutionising how we currently, or will very soon, monitor, diagnose and treat patients using technologies that have been developed in the UK. Professor Tony Young, National Clinical Director for Innovation at NHS England spoke of what he calls the decentralised, personalised healthcare revolution that the NHS is undergoing as he walked us through a myriad of innovations that they have helped to develop – something that I, and no doubt other members of the audience, was surprised to learn and hugely impressed by.
Our dear NHS has long been perceived as slow to react, out of touch with the changing needs of society, and crippled by its size and bureaucracy. That is really beginning to change and with the recent introduction of the continuing clinical innovation scheme, its staff will be rewarded for bringing new and innovative ideas to the table, receiving professional development credits along the way.
Many of us will, of course, know of the highly publicised, cheap contact lens that is being developed by Google to measure blood sugar levels, but I was blown away to hear of the system of drones that is now being used to rapidly deliver defibrillators to patients undergoing cardiac arrest. More insights presented how companies have developed computer algorithms that can spot cancer cells more efficiently than a panel of clinical specialists, and of an App called TouchSurgery – developed by two clinical Registrars who work for the NHS – that contains step-by-step instructions and images of over 5,000 surgical procedures that is being used by over half a million doctors to learn the latest techniques on an iPad.
Max Jones, Director at GE Healthcare Finnamore explained how his organisation, which employs 300,000 staff worldwide, has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in precision medicine, minimally invasive procedures and digital health, amongst others. “The cost of individualised care is plummeting” he stated, and consequently his organisation is able to rationalise its approach to the devices and associated technologies it produces. “All eyes are now on the patient”, he said and, as a result, the healthcare industry must begin to think of them not as passive individuals, but as true consumers who are more involved in the decision-making process as to which therapy to select in their treatment.
Dr Amir Babaei-Mahani works at the world’s largest healthcare company, Johnson & Johnson. In his role as Senior Director External Innovation and Enabling Technologies within the company’s Innovation business, he demonstrated how his company – which has grown through strategic acquisitions – has created a global network of Innovation and Incubator Centres, which have generated more than 300 strategic partnerships in just three years. This includes the development of 3D printed, bioabsorbable scaffolds that are used to repair damaged arteries and veins. “25% of sales in our business now comes from products that we have launched in the past five years” he advised.
Last up was Paul Thomas, who now works as an Enterprise Architect at Microsoft following a successful career managing digital systems within the NHS. For him the future lies in wearable tech, “It’s here to stay” he said, advising that earlier concerns regarding the accuracy of these devices, which was coupled with a reluctance from doctors to utilise these for more than just personal use, has now been overcome and that adoption is becoming commonplace. Speaking from personal experience, Paul was able to demonstrate how the cardiovascular data he collected using his own device was superior, and less than 10% of the cost, compared with the technology provided to him by his own GP when he recently suffered from high blood pressure. Sharing dashboard data from his device with his doctor, he was able to show that the lifestyle changes he had adopted had had a positive effect and avoided the need for him to take costly prescription medications. He further demonstrated how these technologies are now being included within clinical trials, such as measuring what is triggering epilepsy in some patient groups. “This technology is keeping me away from the NHS” he advised – and, he argued, that is a very good thing as it is saving time and costs by removing the necessity to complete a diagnosis within a hospital clinic.
So, quite an evening, and most definitely worth the trip. As for the party-goers, well, they were still going strong both at the station and on my train home which was delayed by over an hour, offering at least some of them more drinking time. Let’s hope that when they wake in the morning, they will take full advantage of everything that modern medicine can offer them to cure their hangovers.
Gerry Montgomery is Business Director at Ashfield Meetings & Events | Exhibits.