NHS innovation and improvement – how to get your innovation noticed

March 2, 2021


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The Health Innovation Network’s Programme Director for Innovation, Lesley Soden offers some real-world insight into how innovators can effectively create buy-in for their products and services.

How to pitch an idea to the NHS

At the Health Innovation Network, we are introduced to more than 120 new innovations every year, and the most common ‘ask’ from innovators is to introduce their intervention to our stakeholders in south London. However, as an Academic Health Science Network, our primary focus is not to provide sales leads or introductions. Our role is to create the right environment for innovators to work more effectively with the health and social care ecosystem.

Now is the time to maximise the interest in technology from NHS stakeholders, as Covid-19 has resulted in digital and technological solutions being rapidly adopted in the NHS at an incredible pace no one could have predicted. To support you on your journey, I wanted to share some tips on how to pitch technology to the NHS and raise awareness of your innovation within the health and social care system. From observing those successful innovations that have scaled up in the NHS over the years, I have gathered the following insights worth bearing in mind as you work to generate healthcare buy-in:

Your value proposition

Showing that your innovation works by having robust and research-based evidence is crucial. If you can’t demonstrate that your innovation improves either clinical practice or service operation, such as freeing up clinical time or reducing service demand, it is unlikely that a busy clinician or commissioner will take notice. Unless you have evidence that your innovation will save money, it is unlikely to get bought by NHS organisations or local authorities. A ‘hard sell’ approach normally doesn’t work for busy clinicians and commissioners. Often, clinicians like to be asked for their opinion of where the innovation might fit into their patient pathway and offer feedback on whether it could it save them time.

Lesley’s 2020 blog:Don’t talk to me about savings – my innovation saves lives

Maximising your champions

Getting others to spread the message helps. If you have early adopters of your innovation who could help champion it, ask them for support. If you have clinical champions of your innovation, work out how to use their influence constructively. This could be small asks such as raising awareness amongst their clinical networks or providing quotes for your website.

Clear and accessible information

Showcase the benefits of your NHS innovation through clear, compelling messaging for a wide range of audiences. I often come across confusing jargon and dense language to explain what a company’s innovation does within healthcare. Use plain English for easier, digestible reading. Our stakeholders often ask for a concise one-pager explaining the benefit of an innovation. Have this ready to go with evidence of the clinical and financial impact (hyperlink to published papers), information on where your innovation is currently being used and the payment model (e.g., one-off purchase, annual licence subscription, etc.). Consider the optimum communication tool/medium to raise awareness of your innovation by carefully considering what works for your audience. If you are trying to influence a clinician working on a noisy ward, asking them to watch a video with sound could be difficult, meaning they are less likely to engage.

Social media

Use social media and online digital health publications to shout about your ‘good news stories’. These could be important announcements such as new evidence, winning a funding grant or securing a new contract, or even news on raising investment (this shows confidence in your innovation). Writing articles, blogs, etc., on health-related topics can be a good way to introduce your innovation, consequently generating interest and establishing your credibility as a thought leader in that space. Consider good angles for highlighting your innovation and generating dialogue, such as the launch of new national policy or strategy. Monitor your social media numbers (engagement rates, impressions, etc.) closely and understand their significance to work out which engagement tactics work for your readers and which don’t. Join groups or conversations that deal with your type of innovation and participate in discussions within these forums.

Remember that if you are providing a link to your company website that it is up to date, easy to navigate and has engaging content. Too often I look at websites that have minimal information, which automatically makes me think the innovation is in too early in their stage of development.

Don’t give up but don’t spam

It takes persistence and constant improvements with creative ideas to get your innovation noticed by health and social care professionals. However, the last thing you want to do is spam busy clinicians and commissioners to raise awareness. As noted above, it is important to consistently monitor and review engagement from your target audience to understand what has an impact and what doesn’t.


We’re here to help

Do you have an innovative product or service that you’d like to introduce to the NHS? Email our Innovation team to book an innovation clinic, we can provide advice, guidance and signposting.

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By Rahel Gerezgiher