If you’re not solving workload problems then you’ll struggle to find an audience

I wonder if anyone in the Pharma, MedTech and Device industry has read this really good article in the British Medical Journal – Stemming the tide: the challenges that must be overcome to reverse the great resignation of healthcare staff.

In summary, it highlights global shortages of healthcare staff and the delays they cause in the time it takes for people to get access to diagnosis and treatment.

The really worrying figure this document gives us is by 2030 globally we could be 10 million healthcare workers short of the number we should have. That’s a genuinely frightening statistic.

If you’re in the Pharma, MedTech or Devices business, you might be wondering what the piece has to do with you. But the problem is that these shortages slow down the opportunity for drugs, devices, apps and technology to be used.

Make sure your pitch addresses the key issue

If you work in the industry, you need to understand that the NHS is drowning in workload and that simply means that any product or project you’re going to pitch needs to directly address that problem.

If it doesn’t, whatever you’re putting in front of them is going to be a nearly impossible sell.

Read my blog here on How To Grab The Attention of the NHS Decision Makers

I want to take you back to the NHS Long Term Plan, first published in January 2019 and in particular I want to focus in on the prevention agenda because it’s never been more important. It’s also a brilliant agenda for Pharma, MedTech and Device companies to engage with.

There’s a recognition that preventative services need to grow and deliver properly focused prevention-led activities that clearly respond to the local health needs of a population and deliver on those commitments in the Long Term Plan.

The standard things are in there – obesity, smoking cessation, alcohol consumption, sexual health and anti-microbial resistance.

But for the first time, the Long Term Plan set us on a new trajectory – there is no longer just a focus on stopping people from becoming unwell in the first place, it now includes preventing unnecessary appointments, referrals and non-elective hospital admissions.

Patient management is a massive opportunity for the industry

A big part of that shifted agenda is supporting patients to improve their own self-care and have a much better awareness of the conditions that we have as a population.

And if people are going to come into the NHS, part of that prevention agenda is making sure they are being directed to the right NHS services at the right time.

We know that a lot of the time people will inappropriately turn up at A&E, out of hours services and urgent treatment centres when actually that’s not what they need to be doing. They could have been made better via some self-care and maybe a visit to the community pharmacy or after a call to NHS 111 or their local GP practice.

Beyond that, the prevention agenda starts to look at how we tackle and reduce local health inequalities and – a big issue for the NHS – unwarranted variations between the providers.

What that means is a patient going to one hospital and getting a particular outcome and then another patient going to another hospital with the same condition and getting a different outcome – and so on.

This results in unwarranted variations in patient outcomes and if the patient doesn’t get the outcome they were looking for, they come back again and again and again.

One of the areas where Pharma, MedTech and Device firms do really well is embedding learning and education to upskill the NHS teams to better manage the patients and improve outcomes as standard within their projects.

If you do that and you do it really well, you improve the patient outcome and reduce the avoidable appointments, referrals and admissions.

The four tests your project or product needs to pass

I’ve written about this before – it’s crucial to work up an angle from which you can approach the NHS and actually open a dialogue on something they really need. This one works because it’s not product led, it’s prevention led. So you’re talking to the NHS about how working with your product, service or project can help them reduce workload.

There are four very simple tests that I would advise everybody to use to frame their projects. They are:

1. Will your product significantly improve patient outcomes over where they are currently? The NHS is not looking for tinkering around the edges. It wants to make a radical difference in improving patient outcomes.

2. As a result of the improved outcome, are we going to see fewer appointments, referrals and non-elective admissions to hospital? It’s absolutely essential that these first two tests are passed.

3. What are you going to do to their income? For example, if you’re working with general practice, are you putting their income up, are you putting it down or will it stay the same? I do work with some practices who would take an income hit for a huge workload release but it’s far better to be income-neutral or potentially increasing it.

4. Have they got or can they find the workforce to deliver this project? This is the most important project test because if they can’t pass it, you’re never going to persuade them to do it. This is where you might have to get creative. Are you giving them a team of nurses or pharmacists to help with the project? Could we use the enhanced access hours as part of the Primary Care Network DES – that’s Monday to Friday 6.30pm to 8pm, Saturday 9am to 5pm. Could we use the capacity and access money which was part of the Investment and Impact Fund for the Primary Care Networks this financial year (that’s just coming to an end so it’s unlikely we’d be able to change things this late in the day but if that’s renewed for next year then it’s a good opportunity).

There’s got to be some joy in the work

What we’re trying to do here is find ways to reduce the overall demand on healthcare and that includes developing strategies, projects and processes for improving prevention because that then helps improve efficiencies in the system and helps reduce the impact of staff shortages.

I fundamentally believe the NHS and the people who work with it have got to find a way of putting the joy back into the delivery. It cannot be all slog and we cannot just demand more and more from the same people.

All that does is burn them out and that makes them even more likely to leave. As the paper highlights, it’s become a vicious circle – more staff are having to take on more work and that’s intensifying work-related stress, leading to more absence, lower performance levels and ultimately departures.

There are some great opportunities in improving the patient outcome and reducing the workload for the Pharma, MedTech and Device companies to engage with.

As soon as you put something in front of the NHS that they want to work with, we start to close that retention gap. If we can retain people we have the potential for huge benefits, not just for the NHS but for the patients as well.

Scott McKenzie helps pharmaceutical, medical technology and appliance firms increase revenue by getting their products and services in front of the right NHS decision makers. If you want to get your products fully embedded into treatment pathways Scott can help. Scott has doubled revenue for his clients and is happy to share these processes with you too. Schedule a call today.