The Wales Life Science Hub Tech-Day, held in Cardiff on 30th June (part of the Wales Festival of Innovation), was a chance for clinicians, STEM experts and government officials to come together and discuss ways of achieving new health benefits from emerging tools and techniques for the people of Wales. PA Consulting Group was delighted to participate in this important conversation.
Some participants focussed on new healthcare processes to deliver better health outcomes; others focussed on using emerging life science and care technologies to enable new treatments. But everyone came together to support the vision that Wales can lead the world in delivering tangible health benefits.
Professor Keith Harding is already doing this by leading the ground-breaking Wound Innovation Centre – the first dedicated wound research and solutions development centre in the world. NHS Wales spends over £330MM a year on wound care and more than 60% of community nurse time is dedicated to the same.
PA’s Dr Shaibal Roy captured the audience's imagination by discussing how 'big' health data can improve health outcomes. For example, 'big' data findings could enable stratified medicine, where patients receive therapies more tailored to their likelihood of drug response. Not only could we end up with more effective drugs, but this could also inform better prevention and public health policy. These ideas are particularly relevant to Wales; as a small nation, with devolved control over its healthcare system, data trials could be rolled out relatively easily.
Dr Diane Bell, a health sector specialist in PA, spoke about the process and practicalities of value-based reimbursement (or spending health budgets wisely). Put simply, this approach works backwards from desired patient outcomes and builds efficiency into the entire healthcare lifecycle right from the point of commissioning.
Of course there are challenges to overcome in:
• accessing and combining diverse data to provide meaningful information for pharmaceutical development. Medical records, phenotypic information (complex, less-structured data in scans, blood biomarker measures, ‘omics’ and in biobanks) and genetic data all influence critical decisions, such as picking the right target, creating the right molecule, and selecting the right patient
• supporting new ways of working. Even if we have enough people with the right skills, there is little point having innovative wound dressings if community nurses don’t feel confident in using them
• allowing the development of new medicines that target ever-smaller numbers of patients. Drug regulation will need to adapt to allow smaller trial sizes, and commissioners will have to be confident in buying drugs that have proven to be effective through a variety of methods
• balancing ethics and outcomes with privacy and security. Robust systems and processes will always be needed but we must enable innovation, not distract or thwart it.
These are just some of the ideas and innovations capable of changing the Welsh healthcare landscape. Other powerful technologies – additive manufacturing, biosimilar development, regenerative medicines, the Internet of Things and gene editing – all have their own challenges, but together they present a huge opportunity.
Wales has the ambition and leadership to exploit these opportunities and build on the existing skills, networks and vision to ensure a nimble, accelerated and responsive ecosystem that delivers economic benefits as well as health outcomes. With world-leading healthcare academics and clinicians, and a growing base of commercial healthcare companies, collaboration across life sciences, health, data and technology is essential in positioning Wales at the forefront of new healthcare solutions.