Three-quarters of small to medium-sized enterprises in the health technology sector have rated their experience of working with the NHS as “difficult” or “very difficult.”

85% of UK-based SMEs identified overly-long decision-making times and finding the appropriate person in an organisation to speak to as barriers to working with the NHS, a new survey conducted by Health 2.0 has found.

Over 80% of respondents reported that NHS procurement processes are too complicated, while nearly 60% felt that there is a resistance within the Service to working with private-sector companies. 

Moreover, only 30% of UK-based respondents said they have worked with Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), the organisations set up in April 2013 to work with the NHS, academia and the private sector to encourage innovation.

Commenting on the findings, Health 2.0’s international director for health, Pascal Lardier, said: “it’s very tough trying to do business with the NHS - a change of culture is needed from the decision-makers with budgets. There is a need for entrepreneurs to contribute to innovation in health to help health services cope with increasing demand and decreasing funds.”

Nevertheless, health technology entrepreneurs are optimistic about the future.  Half of those surveyed currently have revenues of $500,000 or less, but half of that group believe that, in 12 months’ time, they will be earning $0.5-$1 million. 

125 health sector SMEs responded to the survey, of which 82 (67%) were from the UK, 22 (18%) from the rest of Europe, 12 from the US (10%) and six (5%) from the rest of the world.  Most sell their innovations to public and private hospitals, followed by clinicians and national health authorities, while 30% sell direct to patients and the public.

92% of the SMEs see a need for entrepreneurs to contribute to health innovations, and three-quarters believe that patients and health consumers are driving demand. However, when asked if healthcare professionals are encouraging e-health innovation, 37% agreed, 32% disagreed and 30% “sat on the fence,” says Health 2.0.

44% felt the ecosystem - including health authorities, universities, medical centres and mentoring programmes – is not supporting their business, and 53% report that health data is not open and available to entrepreneurs.

And 59% says access to early-stage finance is “not good.” Only a quarter believe that a long-term view is taken on health investments, with 47% saying this is not the case.