First published on DigitalHealthAge.com on the 10th of July, 2019 by Dr Anas Nader, NHS doctor and Founder/CEO of Patchwork.

In May, NHSX announced plans to stop adding new features to their flagship NHS app. Instead, they hope to open the door to further innovation by allowing companies to ‘plug into’ and use their tech. This sets the stage for an interesting next chapter in the evolution of digital health; one marked by collaboration rather than competition.

As the number of healthtech companies have proliferated over recent years, competition between them – whether for NHS contracts or clinical attention – has intensified. A dangerous mentality thus developed; one characterised by a race to scale and a desire to beat off any and all competition. Such a philosophy might be good for the bottom line, but healthtech companies taking this stance are not prioritising the most crucial thing of all; benefit to the NHS and its patients.

The move from NHSX to position its platform as a hub for other innovators is a welcome one. Its new CEO, Matthew Gould, stated his intention to “keep the app thin and let others use the platform that we have created to come up with brilliant features on top”. This mentality will not only foster exciting innovation, but also accelerate a new trend of collaboration emerging amongst the most forward-thinking tech players.

Thanks to announcements such as this and calls from NHS Improvement for greater interoperability between systems, increasing number of digital health companies are starting to view each other as collaborators rather than competitors. We are seeing platforms integrate their services to ensure NHS teams can maximise their benefits.

As most clinicians will tell you, there is creeping (or in some cases, blatant) tech fatigue occurring across NHS wards. Clinicians are in danger of being overloaded with solutions – saturated with new tech to the point when it becomes a burden rather than a bonus. To ensure tech solutions are fit for purpose, we must ensure we stay close to the frontline of healthcare delivery and respond to the direct needs of NHS clinicians and staff. And a core part of this will be opening our minds, (and our business strategies), to partnerships and integrations.

If you provide a temporary staffing solution, ensuring you’re compatible with rostering software or training platforms already in use by that hospital is just good sense. Tech companies must make every effort to simplify processes – from log-ins to interfaces – to ensure they add value to the NHS, not invoke exasperation. If integration with other systems have clear benefits to your end users, then collaboration must be part of your product road map.

It’s inevitable that different players in the same space will continue to maintain a healthy competitiveness. But any healthtech player worth their salt, regardless of size, should put the needs of the NHS at the heart of their strategy. Those who can therefore reach across commercial divides and broker partnerships that will bring the greatest benefit to clinicians, patients and the NHS at large will be those which stand the test of time in a rapidly changing healthcare environment.

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