Innovation Exchange

Creating an online digital platform for NHS trusts and industry innovators across the NHS to connect and share innovative solutions

Working with a diverse mix of clients across a range of roles within the health and social care sector, we are fully aware that it is notoriously difficult to bring together NHS staff and industry innovators (such as SMEs and pharmaceuticals), which presents a real barrier to introducing innovative solutions and new ways of thinking. 

The release of NHS reports such as the Accelerated Review Report and The Five Year Forward View support the need for new ways of working, and emphasise the role innovation must play in the success of the future NHS. But at a time where resources are more pressured, budgets are reduced and the quality of patient outcomes and experience are as important as ever, we knew it was a challenge that needed addressing across all levels throughout the system.

As with many issues in the NHS, we believed the challenge was deep-rooted in the culture and system infrastructure and one which required a deep-dive into the full system. Utilising our experience and intelligence of the health sector, we set about creating a solution which would not only showcase and encourage the adoption and spread of innovations, but also one which would forge a relationship of mutuality between NHS and industry, and foster a culture of innovation within NHS organisations. 

With an established working relationship with Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (YH AHSN) - the regional body tasked with connecting NHS together with academic organisations, local authorities, the third sector and industry - we discussed the challenges from both perspectives, NHS and industry, and set about creating a bespoke solution to overcome the challenge, and which could present value back to their membership offer. 

In an ever-growing digital world, we created an online digital platform Innovation Exchange , for NHS staff and industry innovators across the Health and Care sector to connect and share innovative solutions, projects and products which support the ambition of providing world-class patient care in a cost-effective, efficient manner. By creating it as a digital tool, it is readily accessible at any hour of any day and is compatible across all desktop and mobile devices. 

The real value of the portal is access to shared data, so best practice is adopted and cascaded at scale and pace without being limited to geographical boundaries. With this in mind, we subsequently worked with The Innovation Agency (AHSN for the North West Coast), and as a result both the Yorkshire & Humber and North West Coast regions are in a position to share their intelligence - tried and tested innovations can be adopted without the typical initial investment that would be needed, avoiding ‘reinventing the wheel’. 

After developing a robust brief of the portal’s aim and subsequent functionality, our in-house Design Team commenced work on the brand, design and build of Innovation Exchange. 

The brand was crucial to this work as it was used to establish mutual ground for the NHS and industry to trade and share best practice. We took a co-design approach to the brand, consulting with members of the project team at YHAHSN before further developing the agreed brand option. Integral to this piece of work was the design of website wireframes, ensuring the key features of the site were capitalised upon.

Innovation Exchange key features include;

  • Votes / Like button – a poll functionality which serves to display popularity, and thus demand for the innovation, at a glance
  • Project directory – quick access to a full range of projects with search function meaning users can search for projects tagged with categories aligned to their particular interest area
  • User dashboard – personal to the user, the dashboard serves as a hub for all their preferences included interested categories as well as easy access to their uploaded projects
  • Resource area – integral to their personal dashboard, useful resources are available for users to download and use as reference documents 
  • Social Media integration – ensuring that innovation is shared widely.

Once the portal was built, a working group undertook user testing to ensure that usability and function were fit for purpose for all stakeholders. 

Innovation Exchange was launched in March 2016 across YHAHSN’s network via a strong online and offline marketing strategy. 

The success of Innovation Exchange has seen it now being adopted across other AHSNs, and it is being developed further to create a Trust version capable of stimulating and embedding a culture of innovation, enabling Trusts to connect with and adopt proven and emerging innovation across the NHS system.

In addition to the portal, we are also offering a range of wrap-around services to hospital Trusts, including training workshops, staff engagement initiatives and culture programmes designed to create the organisational change conducive to successful innovation pathways.

Due to its success to date, there are now also plans in motion to convert the portal into an app, providing individuals with instant access to a genuine directory of innovation. 

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