Reforming Delivery
When the Government is the Only Game in Town

The centralized complexity of the NHS is making it hard for would-be health care start-ups to find a market for their products in the UK. That’s the upshot of a Bloomberg piece that delves into the UK’s regulatory environment; compared even to other European countries, the NHS is especially comprehensive in the services it covers, meaning there’s little place to pitch a new innovation if you aren’t going through the government. Unfortunately, the government makes it difficult for new products or services to get approved:

To sell to the NHS, a vendor must first become an approved supplier by getting on one of the lists the government maintains. The lists, called frameworks, cover everything from pacemakers to office shelves to ambulances, and can expire after three to five years. Figuring out how to get on them can be baffling for startups, particularly those with technologies that don’t fit into neat categories. Once approved, a supplier must convince buyers at each of the NHS’s 209 regional units or one of dozens of other groups that control health-care spending.

“The complexity is massive,” said Mark Doorbar, chief executive officer of Safe Patient Systems Ltd., a company outside Birmingham that makes software for monitoring vital signs via mobile devices.

For at least one entrepreneur quoted in the story, who moved his company to the United States, it appeared easier to switch countries than attempt to make it in the UK. One of America’s greatest strengths is the openness to innovation that characterizes our economy, politics, and culture. Decentralized competition means that there are multiple players one can pitch an idea to or sell a product to, and that greases the wheels of innovation. New medical technology that reduces the cost of care will be crucial in the coming decades, as countries around the world struggle more and more with mounting health care costs. Thanks to our more open entrepreneurial environment, America appears to have an advantage in the race for a better health care system.

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