Shiny stuff and red tape

The pace of innovation is electrifying; the pace of change stultifying. I’ve long thought that the main barrier to revolutionising heath care is not man’s (or woman’s) ability to challenge preconceptions and devise new devices but our inability to reshape the clunky governance that acts like a drag anchor on change. The recent MedCity Converge – tagged with loved-up When Harry Met Sally poignancy as  ‘Where Healthcare Meets Innovation’ – emphasised a speed date made in heaven. The two are so well suited it defies belief.

Romantic glee and where-have-you-been-all-my-life wonder washed over proceedings but a few observers could spot the rocks – the meet-the-parents moment that can derail even the most perfect union. The parents, in this case, are the bureaucracies that dictate who spends what, when and the suitability…innovation will only win the hand of healthcare when it has proved it came from a good background, went to the right school and has the kind of prospects that are hard to define. Healthcare parents can be tough…even tougher than De Niro.

Chris Seper, @chrisseper MedCity Media CEO and kind of matchmaker, can see the problems … as innovation is frustrated by red tape. Cultures have to change and fast if we are to reap the benefits as a huge part of the world deals with ageing populations. The financial models will be tricky and beset with ethical and sustainability issues but they are little compared to the job of getting overweight healthcare administration fit enough to cope. One delegate, I believe, coined the apt phrase ‘like turning a battleship’ and it is clear a lot of innovative thought will have to go into getting innovation to the people who need it.

Recent research has suggested that robotic animals could improve the quality of life for people with dementia. Artificial intelligence software and tactile sensors providing the emotional responses that can enhance lives. Pioneering work form Professor Glenda Cook at Northumbria University was built on by a trial run by Griffith University, Australia, and the results showed clear benefit.

Care homes can’t really have scores of dogs roaming around but pre-programmed robotic dogs? Why not?! Companion robots might sound a bit scary but they are just one of a myriad of creative ideas that need nurturing.It is a perfect example of creativity and innovation meeting a desperate human need.

But, if healthcare administrators insist on being stern-faced parents then everyone will lose out. The big question is….who is helping healthcare change? We need to devote some time, energy and resource to helping them learn to love their future family. Everyone wants to see a marriage between innovation and healthcare and a wedding reception blessed by a glowing father-of-the-bride speech that runs something like “When I first met Innovation I wasn’t sure but now……”