Dr Ewa Jakubczyk, University of Surrey Research Fellow at the HTA, explores the benefits that a research focus can bring to technology-based healthcare, and sets out how the HTA can help innovators make the most of the research opportunities available.
My background is in engineering, material science, innovation, chemistry, human movement, medicine and consulting, with extensive experience in mental health issues and awareness.
All of this comes together in my current role, which focusses on strengthening the University of Surrey’s collaboration with existing HTA partners, maximising the use of the HTA and building relationships with new SMEs and industry partners that engage with the HTA.
We all know how important our health is, and technology has a key role to play in helping people to live healthier lives.
With an ageing population we are going to see an increase in the number of people living with one or more age-related illnesses, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, or lung diseases.
While these conditions cannot be cured, they can be self-managed to maintain an acceptable quality of life. For example, people with diabetes can use technology to self-monitor their blood sugar levels to improve their life and self-management.
There are also wider determinants of health that technology can influence, such as sleep. The quality of sleep is very important for our wellbeing and physical health. Wearable devices are now available that can track our sleep patterns and empower us all to take control of and maximise our sleep.
Such new and emergent technologies are becoming more adaptable to what people need, but innovators need to understand how patients, citizens, and healthcare workers can be empowered to proactively use technology to support health and wellbeing.
Research has a key role to play in supporting innovators in navigating and maximising the huge potential that a digital health approach can offer.
I don’t think it’s possible to separate innovation from research, they go hand in hand. Research plays a critical role in the innovation process – it can help to guide and develop an initial idea into a meaningful innovation, or give greater structure and depth to an existing approach.
As the HTA is based at the University of Surrey we have the opportunity to consult directly with scientists in health, engineering, computer science electronics, machine learning, robotics, automation, chemistry, physics and many other disciplines.
Such a concentration of specialists allows for quick, multifaceted development and testing of products. Being able to respond quickly, and all within one setting, will greatly help to increase the quality of the product and ensure that the innovation meets citizens’ needs.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve seen just how important it is to quickly adapt the nature of medical services to the changing reality. For example, we’ve seen the emergence of a range of remote monitoring innovations that have improved remote patient/doctor interactions.
Research has been integral in identifying potential solutions and analysing their impact. As more and more health care data becomes digitised, research will have a growing role to play in future digital health care solutions.
By working with researchers, innovators can access a diverse wealth of knowledge that can help to focus an innovation’s purpose, direction and pace of development.
There are multiple ways of how research can be incorporated into the innovation process, and our approach will very much be tailored to an individual company’s needs.
Whether they’re a start-up or a company with an established offering, the insights that our academics can offer will help to provoke discussions, innovation and, ultimately, lead to more effective products being created.
On a tangible level, we can help with everything from an initial literature review or scoping discussions with academics to arranging focus groups and the testing of products in the safe space that is the HTA.