Raj Purewal, business development and partnerships director at Trustech, an NHS organisation aiming to improve healthcare through the development of innovative products and services, explains the key areas that doctors should be thinking about to turn their light-bulb moments into innovations.
Some of the most successful innovations stem from frontline healthcare professionals. Doctors are a key source of ideas with exceptional insight, expertise and knowledge. Below, I have some top tips for doctors who want to turn those light-bulb moments into innovations.
1. Understand the process
Many doctors have experienced that ‘eureka moment’ at some time or another. That exciting, undiscovered idea that could bring a new way of thinking to healthcare, or an idea that may bring about a small but important change to current practice. These light bulb moments are just the beginning. It is the subsequent process that determines an innovation’s success and whether it becomes a commercial product.
Juggling heavy workloads, and the time pressures associated with developing an idea, often pose a significant barrier for doctors. Innovation, however, cannot be developed in isolation. Collaboration is essential. With expert support in place, together with access to the right resources, such pressures can be eased. For instance, there is a wide and varied amount of advice and guidance out there that can help at every stage including: innovation experts, innovation clinics, training days, events, industry publications and interest groups.
An insider tip from me is: before driving an idea into the real world, assess it for their impact, novelty and commercial viability.
2. Understand the problem
Make sure there isn’t an existing solution to the problem your innovation addresses. If there is, think about how your idea improves the current solution. What are the benefits, and what makes your solution unique? Also consider the size of the problem that your idea addresses, particularly (if applicable) in terms of the number of patients affected.
Try to establish the level of demand, and even sales potential. For instance, could the innovation be used outside the UK? Is it aimed at the NHS only, or could other organisations also benefit?
Before driving an idea into the real world, assess it for their impact, novelty and commercial viability.
3. Get support from others
Support at every stage is imperative, so understand what level of support you and your innovation needs. Doctors who work in an innovative culture are often more motivated and encouraged to create ideas.
4. Protect your idea
Safeguarding innovations by the most appropriate means is absolutely essential. You could have the next bright idea, invest time and energy getting it off the ground, only to be pipped to the post by someone else who has taken your idea to market. Depending on the type of innovation you may need to ensure your idea is well protected through intellectual property rights, patents, trademarks, copyrights and so on .
A confidential non-disclosure agreement is invaluable to further protect your idea and keep it safe until you’re ready to make an official announcement. This provides peace of mind that it will not be spoken about, published, shared and so on.
5. Test it
It is important to be able to demonstrate how your product or solution works in practice. In order to do that, there are further areas to consider. For example, ethical approval must be gained for products that need to be tested on patients. Medical device regulations and CE marks are necessary for medical instruments.
Doctors are a crucial source of innovation, so let’s capture these ideas, and as an industry let’s support progress at every step of the way.