What the NHS should do to drive innovation at scale within the UK healthcare system

In 2014, $4bn was invested in digital health start-ups in the US alone. Insurers, employers and providers are all coming to recognise the benefits that technology can offer. Yet, on this side of the pond, in England, key decision makers have been far slower to act, depriving the local healthcare system of much needed innovation.

The formation of the National Information Board and its joint proposals with the NHS in ‘Personalised Health and Care 2020’ are welcome initiatives. By formally recognising the critical role that digital solutions must play in helping close the £30bn funding gap the NHS faces, we have hope that the service can avoid a significant fall in quality of care provided to English citizens within the next decade.

Yet, despite these laudable intentions, the paper lacks a clear plan for how the NHS will adopt and nurture digital innovation in practice. It is clear from recent discussions with sponsors of these initiatives that there is a significant knowledge gap that must be bridged for a feasible to plan to be developed and enacted. We believe, however, that by engaging with the right partners, this is a challenge that the NHS can overcome. Here are a few suggestions:

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Big Data, Information Services and the Power of Knowledge

In my first post, I wrote about the power that innovative business models have to transform a huge industry like information services. At Index, we've long believed that the value rarely lies in the data itself, but rather in the model that works to transform that data into information that's valuable and desirable to customers (and Markit's $5bn IPO is a very recent example of just how valuable these models can be). With our exciting announcement today that we're leading a $7m Series A round in Credit Benchmark, Jan Hammer expands on this thesis and explains why we're so thrilled to be working with such a talented team:

Since the term was first coined, ‘Big Data’ has become an industry buzz word, whose original meaning and potency has faded somewhat with overuse. Investors and entrepreneurs alike have long been chasing big data plays with little thought as to what such a term actually means. Simply put, ‘big data’ refers to the terabytes of data that technology has enabled us to produce, collect, store and mine. But in the majority of instances, data in itself has limited value.

The majority of data sources are commoditised. Numerous platforms have emerged in turn to crunch through these, in search of some predictive insight. Data-mining, cleansing and visualisation are all relatively simple tasks for talented start-ups as well as the behemoths like IBM, though most continue searching for the big data holy grail.

In our view, data is an enabler, rather than the opportunity itself; a means to an end. That valuable end is knowledge, such that if acted upon, it enhances revenues, lowers cost, or releases capital. Creating strong ROI and stickiness, such knowledge becomes a must-have instead of nice-to-have.

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Next Generation Banking

Today, Osper, a new addition to the Index family, launches its mobile banking service for young people. I'm thrilled to be working with the team and to support them in their mission to empower and educate 8 - 18 year olds in matters of money management. There are many reasons why we're so excited to be making this investment, best articulated in this guest post from Robin Klein, who explains clearly what compelled us to Alick and Osper from the very beginning. In the post, there are a few key take-aways that I think are relevant for all entrepreneurs starting out - have a bold, ambitious vision, design with the customer in mind and keep it simple. Happy reading! 

In the wake of the financial crisis, Osper wants to help young people learn how to take charge of their own finances.

From payments to foreign exchange and credit to personal savings and investments, the past few years have seen an explosion of new business models that are reshaping every aspect of traditional banking and empowering the customer. Yet, there’s one major area that has, so far, been neglected. In Britain alone, there are 7 million 8-18 year olds who are largely overlooked by incumbents and innovators alike, despite this demographic being their most important and, potentially, most valuable customers.

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Why Bitcoin Needs Women

Coindesk released their State of Bitcoin 2014 report last week. For anyone who hasn’t yet read it, I thoroughly recommend it as a brilliant compendium of knowledge on the space. While the content provokes many interesting discussion topics, one statement intrigued me in particular. Included as one of the challenges Bitcoin faces is that “very few women [are] involved in Bitcoin to date, yet women have significant and often dominant influence on financial decisions in many households.”

It’s true that very few women are involved in Bitcoin. Those of you that have ever attended a Bitcoin meet-up, contributed to or have read any Bitcoin-related community forum will know that women are the minority in this space. Efforts to build any female-led community have also failed – the Women in Bitcoin Facebook page only has 106 likes and the /r/BitcoinLadies subreddit only has 47 readers. Even the proportion of female Bitcoin entrepreneurs (~15%) is lower than the tech average.

These stats should hardly be surprising, however. Given the inherent minority of women in STEM fields and in digital finance in general, it’s only natural that there should be gender disparity in Bitcoin. Natural but problematic. But my point isn’t to make this a gender issue. It’s about reading the numbers cold. The majority of us are agreed that for Bitcoin to evolve beyond a store of value, there has to be widespread adoption of the cryptocurrency as a medium of trade. This means both merchants accepting Bitcoin as a method of payment and consumers using Bitcoin to buy goods. If women represent a significant proportion of users on both sides of the transaction, which they do, then they need to understand and adopt the cryptocurrency.

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Why you can teach an old dog new tricks

This New Year, after tearing my ACL skiing last Christmas, I returned to the mountains, ready to get back on the horse. Abandoned by my companions for fresh powder and knee-deep tracks, I decided to spend my mornings with an instructor, hoping to quickly regain my confidence on the slopes.

It happened that I got much more than my confidence back. After skiing for 20+ years, I had come to believe that I knew everything necessary to qualify as a ‘good’ skier. My instructor soon showed me that wasn’t the case. Without going quite as far as back to basics, he taught me so much new technique - new ways of approaching turns, changing posture, balance, weight, new tips for skiing off piste and on piste – that after 3 days, I was a brand new skier on the slopes – faster, more elegant and much more in control.

As I reflected on the new tricks I’d been taught, I thought of the parallels between what was happening in my lessons and the start-ups and entrepreneurs I meet with. Not all entrepreneurs are looking to create new markets by building the next Facebook or Twitter, but just as I was learning how I could use the new technology in my skis to my advantage, the majority of entrepreneurs I meet with are using or developing new technologies to fix huge inefficiencies or problems that traditional incumbents are unable or unconcerned to redress.

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