Navigating the barriers to innovation in healthcare

An Ever-evolving Industry

Healthcare is constantly changing. This is because we live in a world where technology is ever evolving and paving the way for more advancements in medicine. In 2011 life expectancy at birth was almost double that in 1841. A newborn boy was expected to live to 40.2 in 1841, compared to 79.0 in 2011, whereas a baby girl was expected to live to 42.2 in 1841 and 82.8 in 2011[1]. Advancements such as childhood immunisation and better treatments and facilities have all contributed to this increase.
We are lucky to be living in “the age of information”, there is a global desire to create new ways to improve patient care. However, there are many barriers to innovation in healthcare.

The healthcare sector is under increasing pressures due to rising costs and patient expectations. These pressures and the inherent nature of the industry itself make innovation in healthcare more complicated than in other sectors.

No other system is more complex: no other industry or sector has such detailed funding models, so many moving parts, and so many different options and interventions for any one person’s needs. Healthcare has numerous stakeholders; the various combinations of care, activities, events, interactions, and outcomes required to provide a holistic service offer a significant challenge for change-makers.


The healthcare industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the world, and for good reason. The implications of actions within this industry directly affect peoples’ lives and the consequences of getting it wrong can be catastrophic.

This means any new device or treatment entering the market must be tested rigorously to prove its safety, and companies supplying to this complex marketplace are continuously audited to maintain high standards. This is a good thing, as it means that patient safety is paramount, however it can prevent innovative products getting to market if companies do not have the means or money to go through the stringent approval or testing processes.

Clinical Engagement

For years there has been no shortage of talk in the NHS about the need for clinician engagement.
A growing body of evidence shows that NHS organisations with high levels of staff engagement perform better financially and achieve better patient outcomes and satisfaction. And rates of staff absenteeism and turnover are lower too.

Clinician engagement is more important than it has ever been, because of the unprecedented challenges facing the service at the moment. However, gaining access to medical professionals with the appropriate expertise can pose a major obstacle.

New technology takes time to learn, and healthcare professionals are under continual time pressures. They may switch off to new technology that takes time to adopt and opt for tried and trusted methods. This presents quite a challenge for sales representatives.

Access to market

Medical devices are distributed in a different way than consumer products in that they follow a more complex supply chain. Getting an innovative medical product to market involves multiple parties such as manufacturers, distributors, and local/national supply frameworks, before it can reach end users.

The decision-making process in hospitals is often fragmented, sometimes it’s the clinical team who decide on new products, other times it’s engineering teams or even procurement who hold the buying power. Finding the right person to make the decision, and then getting other departments on board can be challenging. Some hospitals will purchase through supply chains, or group purchasing organisations, whilst others may negotiate directly with distributors or wholesalers.

Once the product reaches the end user, converting a full hospital can be a challenge as nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals require training on any new medial devices. Some manufacturers, such as TriMedika offer full training support to help hospitals switch their products, which can make for a smoother transition.



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