Sarah Cartledge speaks to Mat Oram, CEO of AdviseInc, about the challenges in entering the UK Healthcare market.
The NHS or National Health Service is a daunting entity to approach within the healthcare market, especially for new businesses and organisations looking to enter the UK. As one of the highest civilian employers in the world with more than 1.7m staff, the NHS is truly a gargantuan organisation. The structure of the NHS makes it very difficult to understand for overseas organisations who often think it is one entity, whereas in fact it comprises 223 Trusts with their own individual procurement teams.
Yet, getting into the market is not as difficult as it may first seem. Having the right people to guide you through the process is incredibly beneficial, and knowing where to start is the first hurdle. So where do you begin with the NHS? Do you approach a Trust, or do you approach individuals? Is it best to start outside the country and then move in, or get a foothold here first?
According to Mat Oram, CEO of AdviseInc, the NHS has become simpler over the past few years. As a former NHS procurement expert, his company AdviseInc analyses data to benchmark pricing and is independent of both buyer and supplier, providing a clear understanding of how data can help everyone involved in the buying process and benefit from the healthcare system.
Getting your foot in the door
“If you’re a brand new entrant, it’s difficult for an organisation to break into a well established market, so the approach has to be different, which is where we come in,” says Mat. “We would recommend having conversations with individual hospitals themselves to gauge the appetite for your product.”
And it’s here that AdviseInc can help. Through their extensive procurement relationships they can identify the NHS Trusts that could be interested in a new product by picking up the phone to speak to the procurement team directly. Conversely, if there is little appetite in the UK for such a product, AdviseInc can accurately identify this at an early stage, enabling businesses to remove change their models for the UK market before too many costs are sunk.
“By working through us, you may find that there is no opportunity for your product. That isn’t great news, but it would save you far more money by going through us to hear that than approaching the market through other channels,” says Mat.
Like most things in life, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Unfortunately, this is all too often a killer for businesses looking to operate in every sector around the world. Thankfully, AdviseInc maintains strong partnerships with many NHS procurement leads who are only too willing to discover new, exciting products and find ways of cutting unnecessary cost.
“We know many Heads of Procurement very well, and if you’re looking to promote your product to a specific sector, we can easily broker a conversation between you and them,” says Mat. “Most of them are either looking for savings or for innovation, and in actuality would be open to conversations with new suppliers. We can get suppliers to the people who will be able to make the buying decisions, or who can advise them on who to talk to next.
“For more complex devices, we can identify the markets for them, ascertain the buyers, and locate the variations between products. For example, we can identify the different levels of technology in a pacemaker, and the requirements for patients that need them – not all patients require the same products, which can be really beneficial for new entrants.
“We can also identify through data which surgeons are fitting which devices, and in some situations, a ‘lesser’ product, may be perfectly adequate or even more beneficial than one which will cost the provider far more money.”
Then again, not every supplier is looking to sell the same product for a cheaper rate, or produce lesser products. As we are seeing now, and have been for many years, new methods of treatment, new pharmaceuticals, and new devices have been revolutionising patient care and patient outcomes.
However, these breakthroughs, whilst medically fantastic, are often not easy on the wallet. Yet, if these treatments can deliver a higher standard of care, lower recovery times, or better patient outcomes, that is the ideal selling point for these products within the NHS.
“Say, for instance, there is a long-standing procedure that needs to be performed on a patient, which requires a highly invasive surgery and a long hospital stay for recovery and monitoring. In addition to that, the patient will probably require a period of convalescence after that. But what if a supplier has developed a new way of doing this procedure and the patient no longer has to go through a highly-invasive and potentially risky surgery, or even undergo general anaesthetic. However, this product costs 5 times more than the cost of doing it the old fashioned way, which produces just as good results, so why would procurers switch to this?
“The answer is that now, the hospital can treat this patient as a day case without a week’s recovery in the hospital. The patient feels immediately better, and there is less risk of complication. At a patient level, they only end up with a small scar that can heal on its own, as opposed to a larger scar that requires stitches. All these little things add up, and it can be far cheaper in total costs for the procurer to take the more expensive option.”
Overall, targeting the UK market requires only a few things – the right product, the right target, and the right people. AdviseInc can help to identify all of those for suppliers who are looking to sink their teeth into the UK market.