How to make offers of support known to governments and healthcare systems

In recent weeks, many companies and organisations have reached out to Incisive Health, seeking our advice on how they can best make their offers of help known to governments and healthcare systems.

The companies and organisations seeking our help reflect the breadth of our specialist expertise: manufacturers of a range of different treatments and vaccines; suppliers of diagnostic tests; healthcare service providers; and creators of innovative digital technologies.

They range from small start-ups to large multinationals, and include many charities too – eager to ensure the patient voice is not lost in what can feel by necessity like quite a mechanistic health system response.

All, however, recognise the seriousness of the situation we are in and are eager to help – as are we. We are therefore writing this blog so that all may freely access the initial advice we would offer to anyone who asks.

Using official channels

Our first piece of advice is that governments and healthcare systems are open and transparent about where offers of assistance should be made – and these channels should be the first port of call for most.

The website of the European Commission’s health crisis management coordination function, for example, provides information on the EU-wide tenders for medical equipment and supplies which are taking place. These tenders are likely to grow in number and scale over time.

In the UK, the Cabinet Office has created its own bespoke website where offers of help can be submitted.

It is of course typical for governments – like many other large organisations – to respond in a sometimes-uncoordinated way as uncertain and fast-moving threats emerge, which is why separate – even rival – channels of communication have been established by individual institutions. In the UK, a number of additional (yet still official) ‘hotlines’ have been set up where offers of help can also be submitted.

In time, these channels may be consolidated, but the additional bureaucracy is undoubtedly frustrating, and can create delays in responding to offers of help.

We can help organisations navigate these institutions to find where the decisions are actually being made – but people should nonetheless be reassured that, in time, the formal processes will eventually run their course.

Communicating clearly

Our second piece of advice is to make sure that organisations approach governments and healthcare systems with offers of help which are clear in what they can do, resonate strongly with decision makers, and are honest about when the help being offered might be available.

All governments are on the lookout for reliable antibody testing, for example – and those who develop such tests will need little help in convincing governments to make use of them. But there are others who will have ideas on how to make such tests available – en masse – to populations in ways which maximise their effectiveness. These offers of help are no less valued simply because they rely on technologies that are still in development – but companies must be clear on where the limits of their offers lie.

Beyond governments, all healthcare systems are on the lookout for goods and services which can do one of three things: first, increase hospital capacity (and move care out of hospitals to other settings); second, increase critical care capacity; and third, increase healthcare professional availability.

Clear offers of help which allow healthcare systems to achieve these objectives will be warmly welcomed, particularly if they are clearly communicated – and even if companies are unable to scale up their production to help address the immediate threat, knowledge of what they can do is still useful for those planning the longer-term response.

Thinking ahead

Our third piece of advice is to prepare for the future. Across the world, healthcare systems are being transformed, in weeks, in ways which policymakers have dreamt about for years. Care is being decisively shifted out of hospital. Remote and video consultations are becoming commonplace. Digital technology is killing off paper-based communications.

It is not, therefore, surprising that healthcare system leaders are even at this early stage exploring how best to lock in these improvements, and thinking about how to use the crisis to go further and faster. And it is not simply offers of help today that healthcare systems are eager to learn about – but offers of help for the future too. This interest will only grow, as we put the first wave of the pandemic behind us and look ahead – and the number of people working on, and the scope of, such long term planning will increase enormously. There will be many, growing, opportunities for anyone seeking to shape the future in the coming weeks.

Incisive Health stands ready to help any organisation engage with government and healthcare system leaders – and to help you get heard by the key decision-takers – both in the response to the immediate threat and in the months ahead.

There is much that organisations can and should do without relying on expert support, however, and we hope this information assists all of you who are trying to help.