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The Health 2.0 movement is in full swing

We’re feeling pretty inspired this week after seeing the latest in mobile tech and apps being showcased at the Health 2.0 Europe conference.

We saw sensors and trackers, a teddy bear that measures children’s vital signs, Fitbits and Tictracs, and remote systems for clinical decision-making.

The energy was contagious and you couldn’t help but feel optimistic about the future for these entrepreneurs. Tim Kelsey, Geraint Lewis, Chief Data Officer and Alex Abbott, Chief Technology Officer at NHS England spoke convincingly about opening up the NHS for business with care.data and the £500 million technology fund.

But these pledges were met with caution and skepticism. Many of the start-ups there bore scars from where they’d tried to break into the NHS. Horror stories were shared in the corridors and investors claimed they wouldn’t back businesses that relied heavily on the NHS.

These concerns were echoed in our survey of 125 entrepreneurs from across the health tech sector. 75 per cent of respondents said it was difficult working with the NHS. 80 per cent thought that the procurement process is too complicated, whilst 85 per cent said that overly long decision making times and finding the right person to deal with in an organisation were key barriers (Pharma Times ran a nice piece on the survey).

But ZPB remains cautiously optimistic. In all the years we’ve worked in the health sector, never before have we heard so much support from the centre for SMEs. Never have we seen such a vibrant start-up scene, or more money being channeled into the health tech sector. NHS England is pumping money into innovative workstreams, but perhaps the messages are getting confused. The opportunities are there in size and number never seen before, it’s just not clear where.

Let’s not forget that this is a relatively new agenda for the UK health market. The fact that the overwhelming majority of delegates at this week’s conference were from mainland Europe shows that the NHS is still considered a hotbed of innovation and opportunity. And that, we think, gives cause for optimism.