28 June 2021

Embracing digital data is key to bring health products to market

Adopting a forward-thinking approach to digital technology – and the opportunities it offers for data collection – will become increasingly vital for companies looking to see their products incorporated by the NHS.

That was the subject of discussion during a recent webinar at which the Health Economic Unit’s (HEU) director Andi Orlowski was a guest speaker.

The event, entitled Innovation Tools for Market Access, was part of Map BioPharma’s Patient Access Conference. Map BioPharma is a Market Access specialist, which accelerates patient access to medicines, devices and diagnostics.

Andi was invited to share his knowledge of digital health tools and the benefits they can have for those looking to bring products or innovations to market.

Andrew Dec, Events and Marketing Consultant at MAP Biopharma, said: “It was really important to us to have someone like Andi, who straddles both the academic and NHS points of view. He has a very forward-thinking approach, embraces technology and can give real-life, concrete examples of where things have worked or haven’t worked.

“It’s so important for our members to have those kind of actionable insights. Hearing firsthand from Andi about what the new developments are and what’s likely to be coming up is really crucial.”

Andi was joined on the panel by Christian Hill, Chief Executive Officer at MAP BioPharma, Alice Fabre, Director of International Consulting at MAP BioPharma, and Darren Spevick, Managing Partner of Eventum Partners and Chair of the EMIG Digital Health Special Interest Group.

The discussion focussed specifically on the huge wealth of useful data (innovation tools) available digitally and how companies can use it to ensure their offerings are fine-tuned to meet the needs of their target market.

These innovation tools can be everything ranging from traditional data sets like Electronic Health Records and Hospital Episode Statistics to, increasingly, things like digital health apps.

The panel discussed how companies can organise this data in a way that helps them make their point to those in charge. They also looked at how digital transformation is making the capture of data and the process of collaboration easier, but acknowledged that there are still many barriers to overcome, particularly in the NHS, where the pace of digital transformation has not always kept pace with other sectors.

However, they acknowledged that digital transformation is now a key part of the NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) – it specifically references the use of patient and population data to improve the planning and delivery of services – and that companies wanting to work with the organisation need to follow suit.

The panel agreed that increased inclusion of digital technology and the data it produces will be crucial to the future of the NHS – highlighting, for example, the use of digital therapeutics in Germany, where patients may be prescribed an app to help them manage conditions like diabetes. Andi also explained that NHSX is already putting a lot of money behind this type of technology and that he had been working with them to evaluate eight new AI tools.

Getting to grips with wider determinants

All agreed that the benefits of technology for patients were huge, giving the NHS the opportunity to change people’s behaviour.

Andi said: “The NHS has to get to grips with wider determinants. Only 10-20% of your health outcome is to do with the care you receive, there are so many other things at play – housing, jobs, diet. Putting more money into health will only get marginal gains. We have to think beyond this about how digital could mean we could affect individual circumstances and personal behaviours.”

The discussion focused on how to get your product or innovation seen in such a challenging environment, and how data can help.

Andi said: “The idea of ‘fail fast’ is something you have to do in innovation, but it’s not something that medics and clinicians want to do – ever. It’s been built into them that they should never fail.

“The NHS may need to be more flexible to adapt to changes but there are some great people out there who are very forward-thinking and want to exploit these things.”

The takeaway points from the discussion were that companies should:

  • Plan ahead, incorporate digital at the earliest possible stage
  • Make sure you know exactly what data you need to bring things to life to capture the attention of people who can affect change
  • Understand what local needs are. Are you dealing with Integrated Care Systems, Primary Care Networks, or an individual hospital trust? Find the right people who are happy to push and to be your cheerleader and to help influence the decision-makers.
  • Make sure you have permissions to pull out data to be used in the way you intend to, and involve evaluation partners right at the start to ensure the right data is collected to provide the evidence you need.

Andi said:

“Collaboration is a key part of what we do at the HEU, whether that’s with industry, academics or clinicians, and attending seminars like this really helps to showcase that.

“Health data can provide so much useful insight to decision makers across the board, something that’s only going to grow as digital technology is embraced, and it’s great to be able to share our knowledge to help others out.

“This was a really useful discussion and it was fascinating to hear from the other collaborators about their experiences too.”

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