Will NHS Global Work?
UK government have recently launched an initiative that will see the NHS expanding abroad, with some of Britain's greatest hospitals (Great Ormond Street/Royal Mardens/Moorfields Eye Hospitals to name a few) planning to set up outposts in China, Brazil, the Middle East and even Libya in the hope to generate profits for the free health service.
entrepreneurcountry asked four entrepreneurs and healthcare experts what they thought of plans to take the NHS to the world, as well as what the scheme could mean for Britain's growth strategy.
Ali Parsa is a social entrepreneur and co-founder of Circle. His personal belief that employees should own the companies they work for has pioneered a new model of delivery in UK healthcare.
"There is no reason why professional services like healthcare and education should just be cost bases, rather than revenue generators. For me, healthcare is one of the professional services where we have a sporting chance to win. As developing countries get richer, and the global population expands, healthcare demand is projected to mushroom at a staggering rate. Brazil, Russia, India and China spend less than 3 per cent of their GDP on healthcare; compare this with western European levels of around 10 per cent and levels of over 16 per cent in the US. The value that will be created in the healthcare sector by the rest of the world growing to comparable levels is staggering, yet it takes substantial time and effort for emerging countries to build local expertise. British healthcare professionals are well respected in the developing world. This may be a legacy of our colonial past but it is a fact that gives us an immense competitive advantage in these emerging markets. While there are currently no clear global healthcare leaders, Britain is well placed to excel as an exporter.
However, UK healthcare needs to develop new solutions that meet the world’s emerging needs, rather than replicating old propositions that we ourselves can hardly afford. Consider our telecommunications champions – they did not go global by promoting the old fashioned cable but by developing mobile solutions that were adoptable and competitive in their new markets."
Dr Mohammad Al-Ubaydli is the CEO of Patients Know Best™ - a company that puts patients in control of their medical records. Dr Mohammad sees NHS Global as an opportunity to innovate and invest back into the healthcare system.
"It is great that profit from operating in new markets can be invested back into NHS patient care in the UK. But this misses two even more significant benefits. First, volumes are the best indicator of high quality and low cost care. By expanding to reach more patients outside the UK, the NHS would gain more volumes, improving quality and reducing costs for UK NHS patients. And the best driver for innovation is competition.
By operating in foreign markets, shoulder to shoulder with providers from other countries with different health care systems, these NHS institutions will encounter and adopt innovations more quickly than they would have done in the UK alone. They will naturally bring these innovations back home, further benefiting NHS patients."
Martina Keens-Betts was a healthcare investment researcher prior to working in executive research. Martina regularly campaigns and blogs for a variety of healthcare issues and initiatives. She speaks on the current state of the NHS and whether global initiative are a good idea before much needed system reforms.
I have no idea whether NHS Global will generate profit or not nor whether the profit stream would be reliable in the long-term and to be honest, I doubt if anyone else knows for certain either. However, one thing's for sure - such schemes can be no substitute for a desperately needed systems overhaul in the NHS. Demand is at an all-time high due to a rapidly ageing population and out-of-control patient expectations, whilst financial visibility is virtually down to zero.
This is a very dangerous place to be and is likely to create a healthcare economic tsunami in the near future. For instance, there are 3 women in my network who due to cost controls, were denied a test for their breast lumps because they were considered too young to have cancer, or the lump ‘didn't feel cancerous’. Sadly, one has had to have a double mastectomy, one has about 2 months to live and the other's ashes are already floating across the Channel. As things stand in the NHS, no one knows what the hell is going and so an insidious game of Russian roulette occurs on a daily basis.
Misha Kapushesky is CEO of Genestack, developing a universal platform for bioinformatics application development in Cambridge, UK and St. Petersburg, Russia. Misha speaks on the opportunities created in healthcare data mining within the global initiative.
I think an interesting potential aspect of NHS Global in the context of healthcare data ("Big Data") and its mining is the following.
There are major European initiatives enabling data sharing in life sciences, such as ELIXIR. At the same time, the amount of healthcare data that is made available for analysis appears relatively small. Providing access to academics and entrepreneurs to large-scale healthcare data would give new opportunities to use the little-explored data in the NHS. The perspective of being able to combine available fundamental biological research data with large scale healthcare data is exciting to say the least.
In order to enable this, businesses like ours, Genestack, are working on creating and providing secure infrastructure platforms serving as a middleman layer to enable analysis and exploitation of large swathes of public and private genomic data with powerful Big Data computing facilities and specialised safety barriers to protect the data of individuals and companies. We started by looking at public domain data in life sciences, i.e., human genomics data, which are complementary to healthcare, and are looking forward to how NHS Global will help us to explore, mine and make commercially available data and tools for healthcare and the clinic. Of course, there's little detail on NHS Global at the moment, so this may all be wishful thinking on our part.
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