Skip to main content
University of Sunderland

How innovation in healthcare can improve patient care

Posted on: September 2, 2021
Healthcare worker using a digital hologram screen

The term ‘innovation’ began in the technology and business sector, where startups created solutions to problems faced in the modern world. It has now advanced into many sectors, with the use of artificial intelligence and big data being seen as a positive across multiple industries, and one in which innovation has been particularly prominent is in the life sciences and healthcare industry.

The dictionary definition of innovation is described as ‘the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods’. Within healthcare, the World Health Organization (WHO) explains that ‘health innovation’ improves the efficiency, effectiveness, quality, sustainability, safety, and/or affordability of healthcare.

Many healthcare providers all over the world are now adopting innovation techniques to improve their output, from faster diagnosis and treatment options, to improving education and outreach on prevention, and providing easier access to services to communities. 

How do you innovate in healthcare?

There are two ways to innovate healthcare services – through new products and the introduction of new types of goods and services, and through the enhancements of internal processes and the production of goods and services.

When a healthcare provider adopts innovation to improve on products and processes, it is not as simple as bringing something new into use. While the outcome of innovation centres around the benefit to the patient and the receiver of care, there are considerations to be made about stakeholder engagement – that of physicians and caregivers, organisations, internal and external innovator companies, and regulatory agencies. 

Innovation requires collaboration, communication, and knowledge exchange in order for it to be effective.

Some recent innovations in healthcare

In the UK, as part of the NHS Five Year Forward View and the NHS Long Term Plan, in July 2015 the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) was launched. Through this, this initiative supports individuals and healthcare professionals in scaling high impact, evidence-based innovation across the NHS and wider healthcare system.

The NIA accepts applications from all over the world, and aims to: help create the conditions and cultural change necessary for proven innovations to be adopted faster and more systematically in the NHS; deliver innovation into practice for demonstrable patient and population benefit; and learn from Fellows’ experiences so that others benefit from knowledge generated.

Through the scheme, 52 innovations have been supported to scale – 32 of which are being sold internationally, over 2,000 NHS organisations are using NIA innovations in clinical practice, and over £134m external funding has been raised. The uptake of the adoption of innovations and new technologies are improving the workload for those on the frontline, improving patient experience, and improving the quality of care.

Some of the innovations created through the NIA include:

  • AcuPebble: the first medical device in the world to obtain CE mark for the automated diagnosis of sleep apnoea which moves patient care to their home. This innovation has saved specialist clinicians 1-3 hours per patient, and patients have results in 1-2 days as opposed to the standard 3-6 months.
  • Brain in Hand: combines user-led self-management, human support and digital tools to empower people to live more independently, manage mental health conditions such as anxiety and cope with unexpected events. This has resulted in direct cost savings for local authorities, and 9 out of 10 users experienced an increase in wellbeing as a result of use.
  • HN Clinical Coaching CARE: uses data and algorithms to prevent unplanned care of high need patients by supporting to stabilise a patient’s condition and empowering them to manage their illness. In a randomised control trial, this nurse-led service saw a 34% reduction in A&E attendances and use of non-elective hospital beds, a 16% increase in patient-reported general health, and a 49% reduction in mortality rate.

In the US, healthcare innovations in recent years have included the use of drones to deliver medical supplies, using big data from wearables like smartwatches for drug development and lifestyle studies and projects that use new technologies to effectively manage chronic pain, and pocket-sized, handheld ultrasound devices.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic

While many healthcare providers were focused on innovation before the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020, the pandemic did accelerate innovation as the world was forced online. 

For GP practices and mental health providers who needed to continue to serve patients, the introduction of telehealth services and connecting via telephone or video call as opposed to face-to-face grew at a huge rate. Nye Health built a desktop and mobile-based NHS-compliant platform that connects NHS staff to patients for consultations, currently covering more than 10 million patients. As the platform is growing by 150% a week, it’s clear this innovation will extend long after the pandemic.

The uptake of improved technology also grew, with many organisations within the healthcare industry seeing the need to update existing processes and systems. Cloud adoption has increased, as many providers have used it to disseminate accurate and trusted information to patients, and social media has been a popular tool for sharing educational information relating to Covid-19, how to get tested and steps to take in the result of a positive test.

At the Abdul Latif Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics (J-IDEA), cloud technology has been used to provide public health agencies and governments globally with real-time estimates to inform the outbreak response using machine learning and data science methods on disease modelling.

Further your learning on innovation in healthcare

At the University of Sunderland, we offer an entirely online MSc Nursing Studies. Our specialist module ‘Quality improvement, innovation and change in health and care settings’ will give you the opportunity to explore the foundations of improvement methodology, change models and innovation in healthcare settings. 

Designed to equip ambitious healthcare practitioners with the knowledge and skills to succeed in senior nursing, midwifery and healthcare roles, this master’s degree will build on your current experience and is aligned to the four pillars of advanced practice outlined by Health Education England (HEE) and the multi-professional framework for advanced clinical practice in England.

Study part-time and continue to progress your career as you learn, with a university ranked top 5 in the UK for nursing courses (Guardian University Rankings, 2018).

« Previous EntryNext Entry »