From tracking cases to supporting front-line staff; loaning vital equipment and resources; providing online patient care; and gathering and analysing data; tech companies large and small across the country are rising to the challenge to help the government and the NHS.
Healthtech is now the second biggest sub-set of the UK tech sector after fintech and there are more than 100 healthtech companies that are on track to become $1bn businesses.
The rapid switch to digital communication and tools across the sector, in the face of the crisis, is likely to have a profound impact on how quickly digital healthcare becomes part of the healthcare system in the next few years.
During 2019 the sector received $2.3bn in venture capital backing, almost double that of France, the next highest recipient. The companies in the sector have a combined turnover of £24 billion and employ more than 127,400 people across 3,860 businesses.
This comes as the Chancellor announced UK businesses driving innovation and development hit by coronavirus will be helped with a £1.25 billion government support package.
Here are what industry leaders had to say about the current health sector and the pandemic:
Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Digital, said: “Over the last month the UK’s healthtech sector has shown why it is a global leader, quickly using its expertise to develop practical solutions to help the government and the NHS with innovative products and services to respond to those in need.
“These new technologies will not only help in the here and now, but they will also shape the future of healthcare in the UK and indeed across the world. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the startups and tech companies that have switched their entire focus to backing the national effort to tackle this health crisis.”
Matthew Gould, CEO of NHSX added: “Tech can help the country deal with coronavirus. Digital tools are vital, whether they work to collect data or to connect patients with clinical staff.
“I’m delighted that so many startups and innovative tech businesses have offered their skills, talent and ideas to help us.”
Dr Ali Parsa, founder and CEO of Babylon Health commented: “We are determined to help play our part across all our communities globally. As we are seeing through the course of this pandemic, while the burden of healthcare is global, the solutions have to be localised to meet the specific needs and culture of each country.”
Wais Shaifta, Chief Executive Officer, Push Doctor said: “Push Doctor is and always has been passionate about supporting digital technology throughout the NHS. Our partnership and collaborative approach with the NHS over the past few years has allowed our partners to see the benefits of telemedicine and digital healthcare overall.
“I am proud to see a number of digital providers collectively coming together to support the crisis and ensuring our heroic NHS staff are exposed to the virus as little as possible.”
Baroness Joanna Shields, CEO, BenevolentAI added: “Life sciences and technology companies have a duty to mobilise resources for the public good in this global health emergency that has already claimed so many lives.
“That’s why we turned our AI drug discovery and development platform toward understanding the body’s response to coronavirus and exploring existing medicines with the potential to address the life threatening complications of the disease. We’re pleased that the Eli Lilly drug we identified as a potential treatment for its anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties has already been moved forward to clinical testing in America and we look forward to the results.”
Gerard Grech, Chief executive of Tech Nation said: “We are seeing scale-ups making huge leaps that would normally take months or years, in just a few weeks.
“The UK’s healthtech sector has grown in size and value in recent years and has taken an increasing level of investment from venture capital backers. That puts the sector in a strong position right now and it is brilliant to see the sector using its resources to step up to the challenge.”
Julia Hawkins, partner at LocalGlobe added: “For a long time we have been talking about the potential for better use of data and AI in healthcare and digital delivery of care and tools to support front-line clinicians.
“The crisis is giving healthtech companies the chance to show what they can do and the response from the many companies who have got involved demonstrates that we do have the talent and skills here to build globally significant healthtech companies.”
Jacob Haddad, CEO & Co-Founder, accuRx: “NHS staff need to have safe, reliable and intuitive ways of communicating with patients and colleagues, and the crisis has made this need more acute than ever.
“Building a video consultation product over a weekend was one of the first ways that we were able to achieve that and we have already released a range of other features to support frontline staff. When the pandemic is over, we will have seen a decade of digital transformation take place.”