Throughout the world, the UK’s NHS is seen as the gold standard for delivering healthcare at a national level – and that makes it an attractive prospect for companies looking to make a difference using healthtech.
But, even for the best and brightest innovators, the journey to becoming a supplier to the NHS is a long and complicated one, and it can take years for a new technology to prove itself as a viable option. It’s a classic catch 22 situation – the NHS doesn’t want to invest in solutions that aren’t proven within its system, and innovators can’t prove the value of their solutions until an NHS trust invests in them.
Kernow Health CIC’s sandbox approach provides a unique and highly-valuable solution to that challenge. By giving companies a way to test and improve their products in a real-life NHS clinical environment, it’s speeding up and simplifying this validation process, so doctors, support staff and patients alike can start benefitting from new technical solutions sooner.
For Finnish healthtech company Klinik, the presence of Kernow Health CIC and its sandbox offering – paired with unique local challenges and opportunities – made Cornwall the ideal landing point for its first international expansion.
With its solutions already deployed in 300 clinics across its home country, all Klinik needed was a little support to discover how the same tools could be applied in the NHS. That’s what the company was uniquely able to find in Cornwall.
Shared challenges, shared solutions
With more than 550,000 potential patients, served by 59 GP surgeries under one trust, there are clear challenges being faced by healthcare providers in Cornwall: increased pressure on already limited NHS resources, fewer GPs available, and an ageing population, to name just a few. And Cornwall’s not alone in these problems – it represents a future view for the rest of the UK, making it the ideal microcosm for developing new solutions to universal challenges.
With Cornwall and Finland sharing similar demographics, as well as similar pockets of urban and rural environments that can make equal access to healthcare difficult, Klinik’s experience made the company an ideal candidate for developing its solution with Kernow Health CIC.
Klinik’s team understood the challenges and opportunities present in the UK healthcare system, and were looking for the best route to market. Klinik’s team met members of the Cornwall Trade and Investment (CTI) team at Vitalis, Scandinavia’s largest eHealth event, where they discussed the potential of working in Cornwall.
After that, Klinik focused its expansion plans on the county. With support from CTI, they were able to join the sandbox project and work with Kernow Health CIC and the University of Plymouth’s Centre of Health Technology (CHT) to localise its solution for NHS primary care.
Hands-on development for frontline services
Through a series of CHT-facilitated workshops with GPs, practice managers, patient-facing staff, and even patients themselves, Klinik and Kernow Health CIC were able to make iterative changes to the solution – which is designed to streamline triage for GP surgeries – based on real feedback and requirements.
“There are a lot of digital health innovators out there that are trying to disrupt the system,” explains Ben Wood, Director of Sales and Operations at Klinik. “We’re trying to make the system work better – and Kernow Health CIC has been instrumental in helping us do that.”
Kernow Health CIC then coordinated working with three GP surgeries across Cornwall, so Klinik could live-test its adapted product. The solution helps nurses make more informed, confident decisions about patient care without taking up GPs’ time, encourages patients to use self-service triage options, and takes pressure off frontline practice staff. So, it was essential that Klinik was able to test its solutions with real people from each of those groups.
Creating an adaptable, capable product
Every GP practice handles triage slightly differently. And that means new healthcare technologies like Klinik’s need to be able to adapt to meet each surgery’s individual requirements.
Thanks to the feedback, and Kernow Health CIC and CHT’s readiness assessments, Klinik’s team knew which tools and data were most important to the doctors and other practice staff they were working with. It’s an ongoing process, but the solution’s data and reporting capabilities will allow GPs to identify at-risk patients more effectively, allocate resources more efficiently, and monitor trends among its patient population over time.
“Through Cornwall Trade and Investment and Kernow Health CIC, we’ve been able to validate our product and prove its value for primary care,” says Ben. “And we’ve established ongoing partnerships with these practices. We’re sharing best practices between countries as well as across trusts.”
Cornwall’s role in the healthtech ecosystem
The process didn’t just help Klinik’s team develop their solution towards being ready for GPs. There was also a major benefit for Kernow Health CIC: “It helped us refine our own processes, too,” explains Oli Sleeman, who leads the sandbox project. “Validation is a journey that can take years, but we can now make huge progress in just a few months.”
As the sandbox improves alongside the solutions it supports, there’s only going to be more powerful opportunities for companies like Klinik to make a meaningful difference in UK healthcare, starting with Cornwall.
The county’s burgeoning tech scene, emerging healthtech ecosystem, and vast range of skills available make Cornwall an ideal base for companies that want to expand into the UK. You can learn more about Kernow Health CIC and the work the team is pioneering here: www.kernowhealthcic.org.uk. To learn more about Plymouth University’s Centre of Health Technology, visit the website at: https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/centre-for-health-technology.
If this article has inspired you to consider Cornwall as your UK base, get in touch with the team today.
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