Creating a climate that catalyses healthcare innovation in the United Kingdom – learning lessons from international innovators

Kathrin Cresswell, Sarah Cunningham-Burley, Aziz Sheikh


Background: The United Kingdom (UK) lags behind other high-income countries in relation to technological innovation in healthcare. In order to inform UK strategy on how to catalyse innovation, we sought to understand what national strategies can help to promote a climate for innovation in healthcare settings by extracting lessons for the UK from international innovators.

Methods: We undertook a series of qualitative semi-structured interviews with senior international innovators from a range of health related policy, care/service delivery, commercial and academic backgrounds. Thematic analysis helped to explore how different stakeholder groups could facilitate/inhibit innovation at individual, organisational, and wider societal levels.

Results: We conducted 14 interviews and found that a conducive climate for healthcare innovation comprised of national/regional strategies stimulating commercial competition, promoting public/private relationships, and providing central direction (e.g. incentives for adoption and regulation through standards) without being restrictive. Organisational attitudes with a willingness to experiment and to take risks were also seen as important, but a bottom-up approach to innovation, based on the identification of clinical need, was seen as a crucial first step to construct relevant national policies.

Conclusions:  There is now a need to create mechanisms through which frontline National Health Service staff in relation can raise ideas/concerns and suggest opportunities for improvement, and then build national innovation environments that seek to address these needs. This should be accompanied by creating competitive health technology markets to stimulate a commercial environment that attracts high-quality health information technology experts and innovators working in partnership with staff and patients.


Innovation, healthcare, national strategy

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