Government & Public

Future of the NHS: co-innovation opportunity with UK MedTech

We surveyed 1,000 people across the UK to uncover their health-related behaviours, preferences, and attitudes towards digital health solutions.

Here are the key learnings for MedTech and public health organisations looking to participate in the digital healthcare revolution.

7 minutes to read

Digital health solutions present a significant opportunity for healthcare providers, MedTech companies, and pharmaceutical firms around the world. However, the UK is in a unique position, given that the publicly-funded NHS is the primary provider.

The NHS is composed of many organisations, operating across a large number of regions, each with different population needs and priorities. The intricate and complex nature of the system poses a challenge for innovators hoping to drive adoption of MedTech solutions and provide equal access to digital health services across regions.

Our findings suggest it’s essential to:

Take a human-centric, end-to-end approach to creating digital solutions:

Collaborate with organisations that possess complementary data, capabilities, products, and services to deliver additional value.

Partner with the NHS:

The NHS remains a trusted digital ‘front-door’ for patients, making it essential to gain patient trust and boost adoption of MedTech solutions.

Promote the establishment of a unified framework for digital services:

The UK needs a consolidated method that offers turnkey procurement, deployment, and remuneration pathways for both – people who have developed MedTech software and those who want to acquire it.

Current attitudes towards digital health solutions in the UK

While there are many willing adopters of MedTech applications, those who stand to benefit most from these solutions are hesitant to use them.

55% of respondents

have used an app or the Internet for self-diagnosis or treatment


are especially likely to use an app instead of seeing a doctor

46% of people over the age of 60

haven't used any medical app yet

Those earning under £20,000 yearly

are least likely to use MedTech applications

Despite being more interested in health and using medical apps, young people are least likely to need these solutions. 

Conversely, older individuals often struggle with breaking long-established habits and behaviours that hinder healthier lifestyles, yet they tend to be less inclined to adopt MedTech solutions that could assist them in this regard. 

Finally, usage of medical apps increases with higher income, but those earning more tend to already have greater access to healthcare services.

Doctor showing patient-centric MedTech solutions

What does this mean for the future of UK healthcare and the NHS?

It's time to take a human-centric, end-to-end approach to developing MedTech solutions.

Organisations operating within the UK healthcare sector can’t ignore the large amount of people who wouldn’t use MedTech apps to improve their health even if they stand to benefit most from it.

So, it’s imperative to take a holistic approach and look at the bigger picture. Instead of working in isolation and focusing solely on digital touchpoints, organisations need to take a human-centric, end-to-end approach and think about ways to make their MedTech solution complement existing habits rather than forcibly interfere with them. 

Overall, it’s important to visualise the service from beginning to end, look at the underlying needs of users, and focus on data-led co-innovation with organisations that possess complementary capabilities. That’s the optimal way of figuring out how your service, and applications within it, can support a person’s entire health journey in a way that works for them and truly delivers ongoing value.

Learn more about data ecosystems

Challenge of gaining trust and product monetisation

Findings suggest that people want a MedTech solution provided, and paid for, by the NHS rather than other organisations because the NHS is viewed as trustworthy.

53% of the population

do not believe that health apps can accurately measure their health

74% of respondents

would want a health app provided by the NHS

60% of people

are interested in apps on prescription that are paid for by the NHS

Only 1 of 5

would be willing to pay more than £10 per month for a health app

Although one third of respondents have admitted that using the NHS COVID-19 app has had a positive impact on their attitude towards mobile health apps, it’s clear that developing a solution outside the NHS ecosystem and releasing it directly to the public will prove difficult. 

In the UK, the population is wary of software offered by technology providers, MedTech companies, or pharmaceutical organisations. Plus, very few people are willing to pay anything for a digital health application.

MedTech leader shaking hand of NHS leader

What can you do to tackle the trust and monetisation challenge?

Partner with the NHS to gain trust and drive adoption.

Trust is crucial in the world of healthcare. People worry about their sensitive medical data and are hesitant to rely on MedTech solutions provided by companies that aren’t affiliated with the NHS. 

For the moment, there is no simple way around this. 

Digital innovators need to work with the NHS to determine which use cases deliver the most value to both – healthcare providers and the public.

Although the NHS COVID-19 app was released under the unique circumstances of the pandemic, it provides great insight into what it takes to make a MedTech app successful:

  • Holistic service design that prioritises the bigger picture

  • Multidisciplinary team that can spot cross-departmental opportunities

  • Embracing data ecosystems that break information silos

  • Effective marketing or endorsement from the NHS to establish trust

the NHS Covid-19 app on a mobile screen in the hands of a person

Digital transformation opportunity in the UK healthcare system

Zühlke’s experts agree – NHS’s current organisational and technical structure isn’t ready to enable the digital healthcare revolution that the country is prepared for. 

The various trusts, GP practices, and integrated care systems that are spread across the seven regions operate disjointly, work with siloed data, and are not equipped to facilitate true co-innovation.

MedTech solutions can help facilitate the shift to proactive and preventative healthcare, helping alleviate the pressure on public health services. To make this happen, the NHS needs a new long-term vision and structural changes.

technologies representing future of healthcare

How to prepare for the future of UK healthcare?

Promote the establishment of a unified framework for digital services.

In the medium-term, the UK needs a unified method for adopting digital services which provides turnkey procurement, deployment, and remuneration pathways for both the organisations that develop MedTech solutions and those eager to obtain them. 

In parallel, it would make sense to enhance the NHS app with add-on features that would transform it into a digital health hub rather than an appointment scheduling and medical records storage tool. With this in mind… 

What can you, as a business leader interested in driving impactful change, do right now to prepare for the future of the NHS and the country’s digital healthcare transformation?

The successful design and implementation of MedTech solutions extends beyond the development of a standalone digital product. Instead, it requires an end-to-end service design approach that helps to seamlessly integrate digital solutions into the broader healthcare ecosystem and facilitates collaboration among various stakeholders to create user-centred experiences.

Understanding the complexities and intricacies of the system, such as existing infrastructure, regulatory frameworks, reimbursement systems, and the dynamics of the NHS, will be crucial for the seamless integration of any MedTech solution into the healthcare ecosystem.

By embracing this strategy, your MedTech solution will enable a more integrated and cohesive approach to healthcare. Thus, facilitating the timely and effective delivery of services and leading to enhanced user satisfaction, improved health outcomes, and an optimised healthcare experience.

As our findings show, younger people and those with a higher income are keen on using MedTech applications even though they might not be in an urgent need of them. Of course, you shouldn’t disregard this willing group of adopters.

Instead, to help ease the pressure on healthcare providers and the NHS, it’s worth thinking of ways to digitise areas of the system that might be relatively easy to digitise. Even if the app isn’t widely adopted from the get-go, the feedback you get from the early adopters will prove beneficial.

You’ll gain invaluable insights into user preferences, challenges, and opportunities. These findings and learnings will be crucial further down the road to make your MedTech solution more refined, expand market reach, and eventually drive broader adoption and acceptance across the population.

The challenge of gaining trust and monetising a MedTech app on the UK market is real. It’s crucial to partner with the NHS and affiliate your healthcare app with this trusted organisation, but you can also accelerate time to value by collaborating with partners who specialise in developing mobile apps and infrastructure within regulated industries and ecosystems. 

At Zühlke, we understand the importance of patient-centricity, regulatory adherence, and holistic thinking. We’re experts at building compliant and impactful MedTech solutions, including SaMD software, clinical trial platforms, diagnostics apps, and more. 

Having designed and developed UK’s COVID-19 app, Zühlke is uniquely positioned to advise companies on collaborating with the public sector and the NHS. Digital transformation in healthcare is complex, but there are ample areas of opportunity that can be leveraged swiftly and cost effectively. By working with partners like Zühlke, you can identify these opportunities and deliver value to patients, healthcare providers, and your business.

Download the full UK health study

Keen to dig a little deeper? Take a look at the full findings of Zühlke's research.

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Contact person for United Kingdom

James Graveston

Principal Business Consultant

With a unique background as a dual-qualified doctor and engineer, James is driven by a passion for improving healthcare outcomes through the development of real-world digital innovations. James has gained valuable experience working as an ENT surgeon in the UK's NHS and has dedicated his career to healthcare delivery, particularly in the areas of MedTech and SaMD.

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