Tammy Holmes, Innovation and Adoption Programme Manager for the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN), talks about the changes in the healthcare industry in England, the challenges in implementing innovation, and how Qmarkets‘ idea management platform has helped the WMAHSN effectively manage and implement evidence-based innovations to improve health and create wealth.
The West Midlands Academic Health Science Network is one of fifteen AHSNs in England which lead collaboration between academia, industry and the National Health Service (NHS) – England’s publicly funded health system – across the West Midlands region. The WMAHSN strives to improve the health and wealth of the region and helps provide equal access to high quality, person-centred care, delivering the highest-possible patient satisfaction through the adoption of innovation.
In partnership with Qmarkets, the WMAHSN developed Meridian, an online health innovation exchange which focuses on the accelerated adoption of innovation in a wide variety of areas, from digital health and wealth creation, to clinical trials and mental health. Read on to discover more about this fascinating project.
Qmarkets: What were some of the challenges your organisation faced that prompted you to pursue innovation?
Tammy Holmes: It is challenging when you have one of the best healthcare systems in the world, but you still have lives in your hands, so it’s necessary to strive for excellence and to continually innovate. As an organisation with almost 2 million employees (making it the fifth largest employer in the world), it is such a huge task for us to collaborate towards innovation working across our departments and various locations, especially possible compared to other sectors, so this system allows us to find more innovative opportunities for our stakeholders to adopt.
The Main Challenges Facing the NHS
QM: What led you to search for a crowdsourcing/innovation management solution?
TH: We wanted a system that would allow us to work effectively with NHS organizations, analyzing the challenges and bottlenecks, and then allowing us to find ways in which innovations could be adopted that would impact the healthcare system. We wanted to be able to identify solutions to real needs through challenges and innovation pull, while also pushing the uptake of innovations and sharing stories about ideas and innovations which had been adopted successfully, for these purposes Qmarkets was a natural choice.
QM: And what made you choose Qmarkets‘ solution?
TH: We wanted to find a platform that could help us manage the submission of innovations that could be open to everybody – from patients, to staff, industry and academics. While some vendors had experience with internal employee crowdsourcing, it was important for us to choose a vendor that could also facilitate external crowdsourcing through open innovation.
QM: What are some of the challenges you have faced in the implementation of an idea management system?
TH: Because the NHS is such a large and old organisation and it has been shy about the adoption of a health innovation exchange. Changing their mindset has been somewhat difficult.
Thanks to Qmarkets‘ platform we helped this company to reach a wider audience, but more importantly we contributed towards providing a better healthcare solution to those in need.
QM: What has the WMAHSN done to promote the use of the platform, create awareness and build engagement?
TH: Engaging audiences has been one of the main challenges. We developed the system with key innovation managers and that helped get them involved from the very beginning. Implementation has been a lot about physically going out to groups and individuals to “sell it”.
We held a very large event to launch the system and it proved to be very successful. We are doing presentations to deliver the key messages. We’ve basically done a lot of “pushing”.
We also attained accreditation by ideasUK, which conducted an evaluation and accreditation of the system, the platform and the processes.
Alongside this, we use testimonials and social media in order to raise awareness of the Meridian health innovation exchange. Our usage rate is growing organically due to the proficiency of Qmarkets’ platform, which has been very valuable. Private industry companies have been the easiest audience to engage, because they really want to be listened to and work with the NHS.
QM: Tell us a little bit about the results you’ve had since implementing the innovation and idea management system.
TH: Since implementation began, we have had 24 innovations approved and 13 of these have been implemented. Potential collaboration and funding has been generated. We are currently evaluating two more innovations. We have 623 active users right now, and these are all high quality users, which is what we have focused on. We have seen engagement increase in terms of interaction and willingness to use the platform, so we’re heading in the right direction.
QM: What are some interesting innovations you have seen since implementing the system?
TH: One interesting example was from a company called „Move It or Lose It!“, which submitted a very useful innovation to one of our campaigns. They work with patients to get them to exercise so they can better manage their own health. As we reviewed their innovation, we realised that it had an application more suitable for diabetes, as opposed to the field in which they had intended to apply it, so we invited them to a diabetes-related event we held. They found contacts and networks, and found new areas where they could implement their innovation. We were also able to help them successfully raise funding and link in with our network to find experts to help them develop the product more effectively. Thanks to Qmarkets‘ platform we helped this company to reach a wider audience, but more importantly, we contributed towards providing a better healthcare solution to those in need.
Another great case was an employee operations challenge faced by a hospital, regarding community resource allocation. The hospital managed their resources and staff using an Excel spreadsheet so they couldn’t control their staff’s visits effectively. Through the innovation management system, they were able to find a company that could provide an effective solution to this issue through a „hospital companion app.“
Recently, there was a campaign about encouraging staff to report adverse drug reactions. This is part of a bigger programme that is being shared across England.
The platform we have developed with Qmarkets is the most sophisticated health innovation exchange out there
QM: What are the plans of the WMAHSN moving forward as far as the Meridian health innovation exchange is concerned?
TH: Our goal is to increase interest in the benefits provided by the system among other NHS organisations so they begin to use this idea management system locally. We want to work in partnership with decision makers from the Strategic Transformation Partnerships, Public Health England and the clinical commissioning groups to identify specific challenges and find suitable solutions through Meridian and the WMAHSN’s networks and services, by putting them into Meridian and seeing the results we get from the online community.
QM: Can you share some feedback regarding your experience in working with our platform?
TH: One of the greatest things about this idea management system is that it is a one stop shop for innovation and adoption. It helps support development and identify challenges. It allows us to manage everything from idea gathering all the way to implementation in one place, supporting the full commercialisation of the innovation life cycle.
In this day and age in which we are living longer, the NHS is under a lot of pressure to build healthier regions, and in turn boost our national economy. To be able to stand up to those pressures, we need to engage people across a large area and this system gives us the opportunity to collaborate on a larger scale than would be possible through any other channel. The platform we have developed with Qmarkets is the most sophisticated health innovation exchange out there and the approach should be spread more widely to implement innovation in a more proactive and effective way. We are giving people a place where they can share their ideas and effect change.
Healthcare Innovation in Numbers
About Tammy Holmes:
Tammy has worked in the NHS for 14 years, starting in the reception area of a mental health unit. She then moved on to become the reception development manager and then settled into two different innovation teams: one looking at intellectual property and the other looking at the commercial side. This latter area is where she became involved in the WMAHSN and when Meridian began to be implemented, allowing her to be part of this project from the very beginning. Tammy has a degree in psychology and a master’s degree in applied health research.