The Best Customer

The NHS should apply the lessons of the COVID vaccine programme to take advantage of innovation

I will be speaking at 3rd NHS Data and Information Virtual Conference: Utilising the NHS’s biggest asset organised by Convenzis Group on Wednesday 17 March. Talking about the lessons Triscribe has learned from handling hospital data and the impact of COVID. You can see a preview video here and I will post a longer version next week.

Kate Bingham, former Chair of the UK Vaccines Taskforce said in a recent interview: “…our goal basically was really to be a supportive customer as much as we could.”

I came across this article almost by accident. It was published (in English) by la Repubblica an Italian newspaper and has received little coverage in the UK. Despite the evident success of the UK vaccine procurement programme.

The message was reinforced in a discussion I had with a customer about a new project. (Our project on prescribing safety indicators since you ask). My chat was with someone from the legal department. Rather than a tricky discussion about sub-clauses and standard terms, this lady wanted to understand how we could share the value we generate with the hospital.

Neither of us have an easy answer but I love the mindset.

Value means patients first

Our discussion was about patients first. There was never a question that real value can only be defined in these terms. Money is at best an inadequate proxy.

This sounds obvious. Note though it was not “for the NHS” or “for the hospital". We both understood where ultimate value needs to lie. Better for people.

There was also strong recognition that the ultimate value was impossible to quantify. Triscribe is an innovative company. The prescribing safety project is exploring new ground for both Triscribe and the hospital.

The outcome of this type of innovation is uncertain. Setting targets and goals in this environment would be counterproductive and unrealistic. The lawyer I spoke to understood this and our whole conversation was in this context.

Recognition of common interest changes everything in any commercial discussion. We had an open discussion about the incentives and challenges inherent in the project. We were able to share our honest perspectives and learn from each other.

Contrast this with the “zero sum” negotiation approach that dominates public debate. It doesn’t need to be this way. In fact it should never be this way. The phrase “art of the deal” misrepresents the entire commercial process. Its not about the deal. Its about the value for both parties.

The biggest impact for no cost

I have never spoken to anyone in the NHS who does not want the latest and best technology for patient care. I know that we all want to make life easier for hard pressed frontline clinicians.

Funding, innovation schemes and well intentioned support organisations are not hard to find. Being the most supportive customer possible would make 100 times the impact of all of these. At zero additional cost.

I have learned that the right culture already exists within the NHS. We need to spread this further to take advantage of the benefits of innovation.

I am looking forward to working on the prescribing safety project. The approach taken by the hospital meant we were able to agree a contract quickly and cleanly. The values and principles I have described are embedded in the hospital standard contract - brilliant. Now Triscribe and the frontline clinical team can get on with it.

Working in partnership to deliver better patient outcomes. Combining the experience and expertise of frontline clinicians with easy, proven technology. Its going to be fun.