A new report on technology in healthcare suggests that Israeli innovation could help remedy some “critical weaknesses” in the NHS as seen during the pandemic.
Dedicated to NHS workers and carers, the report – called ‘A Shot in the Arm’ – was produced by UK Israel Business and the Britain-Israel All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), with a message from Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely.
“Whilst demonstrating considerable resilience, the pandemic exposed critical weaknesses in the UK’s health system,” the report reads.
“The NHS faces many challenges in managing the continued effects and after-effects of the pandemic. At a time of significant and rapid change in UK health services provision… Israeli health technology solutions should be a vital consideration in addressing NHS innovation challenges.”
Health technology (health-tech) is one of several areas in which Israel and the UK can work together, with APPG co-chair Lord Turnberg describing the two states as having “complementary markets” in the field.
The UK is a leading global player in health-tech, accounting for 12 percent of all life sciences citations. After financial technology (fintech), it is the UK’s largest tech growth sector, with 3,800 companies employing 130,000 people.
Israel’s health-tech sector, valued at around £4.5 billion, is also strong, attracting up to £1 billion in overseas investment every year and employing around 83,000 people, but its small population size means companies quickly look abroad as they grow.
“Israel has 8.6 million people, so health-tech companies explore global markets at an early stage,” he said. “From trialling and testing to adoption and scale, Israeli tech firms look for country markets with low friction and high expansion potential. The UK is well-placed to serve as a first international port-of-call.”
Turnberg added that the UK’s large and generally tech-savvy population, advanced health-tech market, financial hub status and geographical proximity to Israel made it “the ideal springboard” for Israeli companies to launch internationally.
However, citing “significant barriers to access and growth” for companies in the UK, the report describes how “the United States is attracting the majority of Israeli health-tech companies, despite the advantage of the UK acting as a ‘pivot country’ for both the American and European markets”.
Shidduch needed for UK-Israel health-tech
For health-tech firms the world over, data is key, and the NHS has “a massive collection of patient data”, this report notes. That is the “pull factor” for Israeli firms trying to sell their products and services in the UK. Yet this is no jab-and-go situation.
“They are led to believe that the NHS is a single entity with one purchasing authority, which is not the case,” the report states, noting how Israelis left “bewildered” by the 100+ Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) “and dozens of lubricating mechanisms with attendant networking and introduction challenges”.
Further problems include “a mismatch between the solutions Israeli companies provide and the needs of the NHS and specific NHS Trust requirements”. In other words, the Israelis are solving problems that are not problems in the UK.
Additionally, the report outlines how Israeli companies “do not always interface with the appropriate UK entities at levels commensurate with their stage or market interest”. So, they’re talking to the wrong people and getting nowhere.
The final problem relates to scale and adoption. As well as being the world’s oldest and best-known healthcare system, the NHS is also one of the biggest and most fragmented, so even firms “ticking all the boxes” struggle to “bring products to scale” (i.e. introduced across the country) in large part due to a lack of widespread adoption of products by NHS providers”.
In short, the NHS remains both a delicious and nutritious nut, but its casing is proving very hard to crack for a people nicknamed Sabras (prickly pears).
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