THE BLOG

How the UK Is Driving a Global Revolution of 21st Century Healthcare Innovation

09/05/2016 12:00

Technology is transforming healthcare. The pace of biomedical science and genetics is leading to the discovery of new diagnostics and new drugs at an extraordinary pace. Cancer for example is now becoming a treatable and in some cases curable and preventable disease.

Digitalisation is transforming individual care, systems safety and performance, and research. It is putting patients in control, allowing diagnosis and treatment from home to reduce avoidable hospital admissions. The explosion of health Apps and handheld tools is radically empowering and supporting patients and clinicians. Breakthroughs in robotics and MRI are revolutionising surgery and diagnosis. For example the Proteus digital pill tracks its own absorption allowing doctors and healthcare systems to finally understand who is taking their pills and whether they are working. Personalised algorithms also allow nurses to have individual alerts on patients conditions 24/7.

This is all great news for patients. We all want to be safe in the knowledge that we can access the best care and most innovative treatments available.

But this progress also raises some big questions for healthcare systems around the world. How are we going to afford all this technology? How are we going to change our care pathways to focus less on hospitalisation and 'seeing the Doctor' and more on intelligent self-management of conditions? How will we value and pay for drugs which cure a disease rather than just prolong life?

These are the questions Prime Minister David Cameron and I set out to tackle in our groundbreaking 10 year UK Life Science Strategy, in which we committed to invest in the transformational technologies of genomics and informatics, and change the landscape for innovation adoption in the NHS. The NHS needs to modernise, and by embracing technology and innovation we believe we can accelerate that process and make the UK a leader in the development, testing, adoption and reimbursement of novel healthcare technologies.

As the world's only comprehensive, universal healthcare system underpinned by world class public medical and clinical research and billions of industry and charity research, we are committed to using our genetic and informatic infrastructure to pioneer a new deal with industry as partners in innovation.

That's why we launched the 100,000 genomes project to sequence 100,000 entire genomes of NHS patients and combine with hospital records to form the worlds first at scale 'Reference Library' of genomic medicine - the NASA of Precision Medicine. Its why we committed to open up the NHS datasets of anonymised cohort studies for research, committed to put £1 billion a year into the National Institute for Health Research to fund our NHS clinical infrastructure, and launched the Accelerated Access Review.

The fantastic gathering of leaders in digital healthcare at Health Datapalooza in Washington DC is the only place in the world to be this week for those who want to harness the power of big data and develop pioneering innovations that are transforming 21st century medicine and healthcare.

Last year, I attended this conference as the UK's first ever Minister for Life Sciences. 12 months on I am back to report on the lessons learnt in the UK and our ongoing commitment through to 2020.

Our latest estimates show that since we launched the Strategy for UK Life Sciences in 2011 we have attracted more than £6 billion in new investment and created up to 17,000 new jobs. That is true growth that is helping to build a stable and safe economy, attract even more investment from across the world, including the US.

And it's global growth. This is a global sector and whilst nations compete for investment we also need to collaborate for research and to ensure regulatory and reimbursment frameworks are aligned. Here in Washington I'm looking forward to meeting Vice President Joe Biden and continuing our collaboration with White House Health policy leaders on Precision Medicine, Genomics, Digital Health and Accelerated Access.

However, we can only progress these technologies if the public trust us with their data. That's why in the UK we have set up a powerful new National Data Guardian, Dame Fiona Caldicott and commissioned independent reviews of data security from her and the Care Quality Commission, due to be published shortly.

Precision Medicine is changing the way we adopt, assess and reimburse innovative treatments into our health systems. That's why I have introduced the Early Access to Medicine Scheme, made Electronic Health records mandatory and launched the Accelerated Access Review to reform our processes for the development of drugs, devices and diagnostics. The aim is to come up with new ways of making sure the most innovative treatments can reach patients as quickly as possible.

The US is also reforming its pathways with the FDA Breakthrough Designation and the 'Faster Cures Act', making it easier and cheaper for companies to bring drugs to market.

This isn't just good for healthcare systems and clinical outcomes. Most exciting of all, the quiet revolution of Precision Medicine and digitalisation is about a profound change in healthcare from a 20th century model in which healthcare was something done to patients to a 21st century model in which we empower active healthcare citizens to take more control of their health and life choices and chances.

That's an inspiring mission that should unite healthcare leaders whoever and wherever they are.

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