In the world of healthtech, there’s a serious hurdle that can prevent even the most inspired innovations from reaching the hands of practitioners and patients – testing and evidencing how something will practically perform once its deployed. In the past, it’s been a classic catch 22 situation – solutions remain unproven because they’ve not been sold into an organisation or trust yet, and they’ve not successfully been sold in because they’re unproven.
Now, Director of eHealth at Kernow Health CIC Oli Sleeman has pioneered a new approach and offering that’s helping to put an end to that cycle, and vitally, bridge the gap between healthtech companies and the GPs and patients that will ultimately use their tools. We caught up with Oli to discuss this ‘sandbox’ approach, and take a look at the impact it’s already having on healthtech innovators in Cornwall and beyond.
What is the Kernow Health CIC Sandbox offering?
According to Sleeman, “Very simply, the KHCIC sandbox offer provides access to GPs at scale for healthtech digital research and trials, giving companies a way of practically testing their solutions and proving their ability to solve real healthcare challenges in the real world.”
The sandbox takes conceptual and unproven healthtech solutions and puts them in the hands of the people that will actually use them – providing both evidence of a solution’s efficacy, and enabling iterative improvements based on real-world feedback.
Ideas like this aren’t entirely new, but the way the sandbox is structured and funded means that previous issues such as a lack of GP time and engagement no longer impact the quality and outcomes of the testing.
“We incentivise practices to get involved with the sandbox testing program, so that GPs have the time and resources to focus on this sort of thing in detail. By handling the project management and ensuring GPs have the resources to cover their office hours, we enable them to provide detailed, high-quality input that’s extremely valuable to healthtech businesses” says Sleeman.
A new solution to a longstanding problem
It’s estimated that 70% of GP appointments could be better dealt with elsewhere – putting huge strain on already limited NHS resources. When it comes to ensuring people get the best help at the right time, technology undoubtedly holds the key. But critically, that technology needs to be embraced by people and fit for purpose when applied in a practical scenario.
“A solution could appear fantastic on paper, but once it’s in the hands of the demographics that will be using it, if it’s not intuitive and usable, it’s never going to get off the ground. The sandbox offering drastically reduces the chance of that happening.” Sleeman notes.
With limited funds and resources for digital transformation, the last thing the NHS needs is to take risks on unproven technology. The CIC’s sandbox offering puts a firm focus on uptake, ensuring that ultimately, any new tool or solution devised will actually be embraced by real users, and deliver measurable value for the GPs it serves.
Practical evidence meets academic research
Practical evidence is hugely important to ensuring user uptake of new healthtech tools. But when it comes to selling those tools into an organisation like the NHS, it’s still only part of the picture that’s required. Much like in the world of pharmaceutical testing, companies looking to bring something new to market need practical evidence, backed up by robust academic research.
To help meet this need, Kernow Health CIC is currently building a strong relationships with academic partners. With the GP sandbox providing reliable physical evidence, and academics conducting further theoretical research to back up a solution’s likely practical value, Kernow Health CIC is giving innovators a complete solution to turn their ideas and applications into proven tools that are market-ready.
Building a brighter future for Healthtech in Cornwall
Thanks to Kernow Health CIC’s sandbox offering, and the work Oli and the team are doing to improve this approach, Cornwall is rapidly becoming a rural hub for major scale digital trials of healthtech solutions.
Individual healthtech innovators in the region can now access a service offering that solves many of the biggest challenges with bringing a new healthtech solution to market. And for those moving to the region from elsewhere, the sandbox offering also provides a convenient, evidenced way of ensuring that any solution they’ve sold in other markets are also applicable and appealing to the NHS.
Pair the availability of that service with the fact that Cornwall is one of the simplest and most streamlined entry points for companies looking to sell solutions into the NHS, and we should expect to see significant growth in what is already a burgeoning healthtech community over the coming years.
To find out more about Kernow Health CIC and their sandbox offering, get in touch.
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