Penny Pinnock looks at why NHS trusts must work together to meet the challenges facing their laboratories and how financial solutions can help support cost-effective investments in new technologies…
Harnessing technological innovations can not only result in cost savings, but can also help optimise processes, raise healthcare standards and increase productivity and efficiency of testing services.
Penny Pinnock, Siemens Financial Services
Pathology is involved in 70% of all healthcare diagnoses,1 meaning pathologists were facing increased pressure to cope with the UK’s growing and ageing population even before the added stress of the current healthcare crisis. As life expectancy increases and people survive such diseases as cancer, they need support to manage living with chronic conditions. Supporting these patients means more testing for pathology services, meaning that in the future routine testing will constitute an ever-larger proportion of laboratories’ workloads.1
In order to keep pace with the increase in routine testing, laboratories will need to embrace greater automation provided by the latest technology platforms. These platforms allow laboratories to run several tests simultaneously, generate results faster and increase sample throughput. This in turn, reduces the need for manual work, the risk of errors, client turnaround times and costs.2 Innovative automation systems for processing lines also mean information and workflows can be integrated and shared across various laboratory facilities, which can help to cope with peak volumes at busy times. Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS), for example, allow effective management of samples and associated data to improve lab efficiency through automated workflows, integrated instruments and managed information.2
Personalised medicine and gene editing services
At the same time, the NHS is embracing personalised medicine which moves away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to care and instead uses diagnostics, genomics and data analytics to identify the underlying cause of disease. Through the 100,000 Genomes Project, the NHS is building partnerships with academia and industry to decode the human genome in people with rare diseases and cancer.3 This aims to help to predict the future development of disease, to make a diagnosis where one has not existed previously and to identify treatments where possible. Advancements in this area have encouraged a wave of activity in the biotech sector, with several companies now offering a range of complex gene editing services.4 As personalised medicine becomes more prevalent specialist genetic and molecular pathology laboratories are being created within the NHS.5
This is an important example of how new technology can contribute to cost savings and improved outcomes. Despite the obvious advantages of these technological innovations, keeping pace with such advancements requires considerable capital expenditure. In times of squeezed budgets, acquiring the latest technology may seem out of reach for many healthcare providers.
Financial solutions for capital expenditure
In many instances, however, the medical laboratory sector is caught in a predicament where budget limitations are impeding the ability to make essential investments. Medical laboratories sometimes retain outdated technology as keeping pace with technological advancements requires considerable capital expenditureThis practice can, however, have a considerable negative impact on capability, productivity and efficiency. Harnessing technological innovations can not only result in cost savings, but can also help optimise processes, raise healthcare standards and increase productivity and efficiency of testing services. As a result, specialist technology finance solutions are gaining increasing acceptance as a means of enabling cost-effective investments in new technologies.
Intelligent finance solutions
Siemens Financial Services (SFS) works with Siemens Healthineers, as well as other technology vendors, to provide cost effective financing solutions for a wide variety of medical technology and equipment, enabling healthcare organisations to access the solutions they need without having to commit precious capital budgets. Intelligent finance solutions allow healthcare organisations to sustainably acquire new technology without having to commit large sums of capital. Such financing solutions spread the cost of the technology over an agreed financing period, with finance payments arranged to align with the expected benefits, such as greater operational efficiency, improved patient outcomes and enhanced access to healthcare services.
Additionally, financing arrangements have the potential to incorporate other costs such as installation, as well as introduce the flexibility of future affordable technology upgrades, in line with technology developments. Healthcare providers can then deploy precious funds in other areas to improve service quality while keeping their lines of credit intact.
Such tailored financing packages tend to be offered by specialist healthcare financiers that have an in-depth understanding of medical technology and its applications. They understand the profound impact up-to-date equipment and technology can bring to the daily operation and can expertly evaluate any associated risks. They are therefore more inclined and more able to create customised financing packages that fit the specific requirements of each individual organisation – for instance, by flexing the financing period to suit the customer’s cash flow needs. This contrasts with the standard financing terms usually available from generalist financiers who often lack technical expertise or a thorough understanding of the healthcare sector.
NHS Trusts reap the benefit of pooled resources
NHS laboratories are facing dual challenges of testing on a larger scale – a crucial capability to have during this time of unprecedented demand - while also embracing a personalised approach to medicine. To fulfil both of these briefs requires investment in technology and this is leading Trusts to pool resources. By combining this joint approach with sustainable financial solutions, Trusts have the best chance of embracing the technology required and reaping the benefits.
Author: Penny Pinnock, Sales Manager – Healthcare & Public Sector for Siemens Financial Services (SFS). https://new.siemens.com/global/en/products/financing.html
1 Lab News, ‘A clinical look at the future of pathology’, 23 February 2016 https://www.labnews.co.uk/features/clinical-look-future-pathology-23-02-2016/
2 See for example: Illumina, ‘Introduction to lab information management systems’, https://www.genologics.com/what-is-a-lims/, Autoscribe Informatics, ‘What is LIMS?’, https://www.autoscribeinformatics.com/resources/blog/what-is-a-lims
3 NHS England, ‘Personalised medicine’ https://www.england.nhs.uk/healthcare-science/personalisedmedicine/
4 The Telegraph, Gene editing revolutionising pharmaceuticals industry, February 2017, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/02/05/gene-editing-revolutionising-pharmaceuticals-industry/
5 NHS England, ‘Improving outcomes through personalised medicine’, 7 September 2016, https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/improving-outcomes-personalised-medicine.pdf
6 Lab Manager, ‘Lab Equipment Procurement Models and Trends’, 3 September 2013 https://www.labmanager.com/lab-design-and-furnishings/2013/09/lab-equipment-procurement-models-and-trends#.XEHmo1z7SM8