The most successful start-ups in the NHS will be those that see their relationship with the health service as a partnership, Professor Joe Harrison, national director of the NHS App has told Digital Health News ahead of his appearance at Digital Health AI and Data 2023. 

Harrison, who is also CEO of Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, will join Feebris CEO and co-founder Dr Elina Naydenova, CEO and co-founder Dr Keith Tsui and other panellists for a session looking at the future of AI and healthcare start-ups on the AI and Analytics stage on Day One.  

AI and Data is running from 30-31 October at the Business Design Centre in London. 

“We know it’s a hard industry to get into, and what organisations like Milton Keynes do is provide an environment that welcomes start-ups,” Harrison said.

“The challenge is getting that commercial balance between the startup getting NHS sponsor and what that might mean to the business long-term versus the actual costs to the business and wanting to charge from the get-go. The best relationships are partnerships where the organisations are working together.” 

Harrison also reflected that many companies see the NHS as a single entity, when it is in fact “230 acute hospital businesses and 600 primary care businesses”.

With each organisation having its own ways of doing things and evaluating technology opportunities, finding an NHS “sponsor” to partner with can be a crucial opportunity for start-up companies, providing a trusted voice to encourage other organisations to look at the solutions they offer, he added. 

At the same time, he said, start-ups of the future are unlikely to get a foot in the NHS door unless they are working with the industry standards on interoperability. He said: “Tech has evolved so much that it should have made suppliers lives easier in terms of minimal expectations.”  

With the electronic patient record (EPR) market consolidating into three or four main suppliers, many organisations will be building their digital strategy around the EPR vendor, Harrison added. 

NHS app, tech must be intuitive

Despite having responsibility for the NHS app, Harrison describes himself as a “technology luddite” and says: “I get to be the lowest bar. If I understand it, I know the population will understand it.” 

A key priority for the health service will be providing citizens with technology that is intuitive and that they can use without a training program, as well as helping them to adjust to the medical technology that is rapidly developing, he said.  

AI and Data will bring together health professionals, researchers, analysts, data scientists and start-ups, for educational sessions and best practice case studies on the latest and best examples of data science, AI and analytics in action across UK healthcare.   

All sessions are CPD accredited. AI and Data is free for the NHS, public sector, start-ups, charities, education and research. Commercial tickets start from £275+VAT. Register here.