Noel Gordon, Chair of Healthcare UK and NHS Digital, and Harjinder Kang, CEO, Healthcare UK, jointly address areas of great potential for healthcare collaboration between India and the UK.
What are some of the success stories of the UK-India healthcare collaboration?
There are many British organisations active in the Indian market but from an NHS perspective, the recent success of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust in collaborating with Cadabams Group is a promising example of clinical collaborations.
Other examples of high-potential wins include the Feedback AI deal with GE Healthcare's solution to promote Feedback's Texrad software which analyses tumours for diagnostic and research purposes, and Mott MacDonald and Clancy UK on the project management and engineering side.
Which are the focus segments Healthcare UK hopes to build upon with Indian healthcare providers?
Looking within the healthcare space, the areas in which we would expect to see greater collaborations are Digital Health and Infrastructure services. This is in addition to the medtech and biopharma spaces which are categorised as life sciences.
That said, we hope that the NHS. with its array of world-class clinical expertise, can create many more collaborations with Indian healthcare providers and governments to build on the amazing diaspora links and positive relationships.
Are there new areas of growth opened up by Ayushman Bharat a.k.a. Modicare initiative?
Ayushman Bharat has huge collaboration potential given the programme is fundamentally changing the nature of the Indian health system. The vision will require capabilities to regulate and monitor the system to a greater degree and in a different way than before. The UK's healthcare system has faced many of the same challenges and developed approaches to address these using mechanisms such as the Department of Health and Social Care's arms-length bodies (ALBs) such as the Care Quality Commission, National Institute for Clinical Excellence and the NHS Counter Fraud Authority. There is great potential to work on these system design areas if the Government of India is willing to collaborate.
AI is key to solving some of the workforce shortages India faces, especially in rural and semi-urban areas. This was evident in the Healthcare AI Catalyst project created to assess the feasibility of deploying AI solutions within Primary Health Centres in India.
Does India have a role to play in tackling the UK′s skill shortages in the sector?
India can play a significant role in this regard and this is the reason why Health Education England's Global Learners programme was instituted to solve this problem at a national level. The idea that nurses and other healthcare professionals from India could get further training in the UK and fill shortages in the NHS is not new and this is only set to grow once the mechanisms are established and refined.
What are the key steps required for both countries to make greater use of technology in healthcare?
One of the key ingredients in this regard is to create an innovation pathway that not only allows the creation of innovative solutions but takes them progressively from concept to widespread adoption. In the UK, the challenge has been more about adopting innovative technology at scale than creating it, as the UK is a leading global hub for start-ups in Digital Health. While regulatory regimes and certification agencies are in place, we still face the challenge of fragmented purchasing by the NHS and the need to generate evidence to demonstrate safety and efficacy. There are moves afoot to resolve these challenges.
For India, the generation and adoption of health technology also faces similar challenges. The NHS has created a mechanism for providing national healthcare data in a safe way for innovators to develop their solutions and further to regulate these solutions based on evidence generated within the NHS. India will need to do the same and perhaps create a framework for evaluating and certifying technology solutions which can then be adopted by the private and public sector. The creation of health data repositories and start-up data resources will also be important.
How do you foresee the UK-India healthcare partnership developing in the coming months and years?
There a number of areas where the partnership is set to grow. The workforce and digital technology areas are where we see the greatest potential with technologies such as AI taking centre stage. Given the UK's work over the last 15 years in creating a national digital health infrastructure ecosystem, there is also a great opportunity to collaborate on the National Digital Health Blueprint implementation through the proposed National Digital Health Mission.
That said, there are emerging areas of healthcare development such as Genomics, where the UK has already made significant investments and which is still in the nascent stage in India, where the potential is truly significant and yet untapped.