Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico
Healthier Working Lives ;

Expert Perspective: Healthcare has always pioneered and will continue to do so

John has devoted his career in business to shaping, cultivating and building entrepreneurial cultures in organisations as diverse as a brand leading retail, global management consultancy, public services and national government. He reflects on the power of innovation.

John Mathers

Healthcare embraces innovation

The history of healthcare is a history of innovation. Over thousands of years and across cultures, physicians and healthcare specialists have sought ways to cure disease and improve lives, all through experimentation and invention. Despite many of the concerns we have about our healthcare systems the reality is that the way we look after people has transformed beyond all recognition and the pace is furious.

Today, entrepreneurs in healthcare are accelerating this innovation legacy. They have revolutionised the ways doctors treat patients, designing medical procedures and devices that would have seemed miraculous to their predecessors, and revolutionised how healthcare is delivered to patients and communities.

As the healthcare industry continues to be challenged, opportunities to create new and better ways of doing things grow with it. Some of these are transformative medical treatments and our approach to later life care; others leverage the internet and technology to improve care quality; others are applications that gather and make sense of the ocean of healthcare data generated daily.

It’s vital to retain a positive outlook.

Small steps

Our health and care systems are under strain: a growing and ageing population, combined with budget restraints and pressure on resources are all contributing to a situation where services are stretched and staff feel under stress.

 However, leading healthcare practitioners are also acutely aware that new technology has the potential to help relieve many of these pressures, while also supporting staff and helping them achieve better outcomes for patients.

 In our Healthier Working Lives programme, we have been seeking out the digital entrepreneurs striving to improve this situation.

 We’ve been understanding the innovations out there. Those that shift the needle and disrupt the status quo. And the challenges people face trying to introduce them into the system.

 Working with entrepreneurs will undoubtedly help to evolve the healthcare culture but everyone needs to recognise it’s a journey, and not going to happen overnight.

 We have to be patient – because big changes often take time – but equally we should be challenging norms and over-turning established outmoded practices.

Opening the door, inch by inch

For many entrepreneurs there are significant barriers to entry so they have to be exceptionally determined to get into the healthcare system and deliver demonstrably new solutions.

The big challenges are:

  • Navigation – finding out who to approach with the innovation
  • Awareness – ensuring people on the front line know, like and advocate the solution
  • Adoption – helping people to use the solution once they are aware of it

Successful entrepreneurs examine the needs of those working in the healthcare sector, and identify quick wins to streamline technology, are the first steps towards systemic change nic making it easier to use and more accessible at scale.

The good news

Naturally, often the most effective ideas emerge from front-line staff who have direct experience of the pressures in the system – symptomatic of an intrapreneurial culture. And it’s up to innovative entrepreneurs to enable those ideas to be realised.

Overall, the care sector should have a very positive outlook for the future because we’ve established that there is:

  • a full tank of talent in the supply chain, pushing the doors ajar
  • a willingness amongst care sector leaders to unleash the intrapreneurship of their teams
  • a wave of new employees set to enter the sector brimming with powerful energy and ideas to drive change
  • a maturing of the investment community who recognise the sheer size, scale and value of the care market

System change frequently holds back big strides forward, so the engagement of policy makers and public and private sector investors will be vital to open the doors and capitalise on the talent in the sector.

There’s a raft of evidence of the emerging importance of the health-tech and care-tech from the work of NICA (National Innovation Centre for Ageing); data gathered by market analyst Beauhurst; and insight into the economic impact of older entrepreneurs from Enterprise Nation’s most recent Small Business Barometer that found that the average age of the UK’s business founders was 46, and that 35% of businesses are started and run by people over 50. Proof that age is no barrier to entrepreneurship, and is a viable option for older people looking to boost the economy.

Care success story: Lottie - powerful demonstration of investors recognising huge potential in care innovation.

Any doubt that investors are sceptical of the possibilities to revolutionise the care sector were blown away in October with the announcement that elderly care marketplace Lottie has raised $21m (£17.2m) in a Series A funding round led by Accel - news that made Beauhurst’s big deal list. Lottie will use the investment to grow its team and develop its software, which provides personalised searches for discovering care homes.

The capital injection brings Lottie’s total funding to $31m (£25m). Brothers Will and Chris Donelly founded Lottie in 2021 after becoming “disgruntled” by their personal experiences finding a care home for a loved one. According to the start-up, it has more than 4,000 care and retirement providers signed up to its site and has over 500,000 monthly users.

We set out to build Lottie after experiencing first-hand the fundamental issues in the UK social care sector: namely a lack of high-quality affordable care and an outdated, emotionally taxing process for individuals and families urgently looking to find care for their loved ones.– Will Donnelly, co-CEO and co-founder of Lottie
We expect glossy, transparent, low-touch experiences when booking holidays, buying groceries and doing everything in between. For some reason, eldercare has been left behind. Will and Chris are on a mission to level up an industry stuck in the dark ages.– Sonali De Rycker, partner at AcceL

Join our workshop

HWL x THE LENS Workshop: How do you cultivate an intrapreneurship culture in your organisation?

This workshop will help you answer key questions leaders are asking. What if there was a way to stimulate innovation to enhance performance and empower your inter-generational workforce? What if there was a way to activate a community of Change-Makers who'll inspire and influence others?

The workshop will be led by John Mathers, former CEO of the Design Council and Enterprise Lead on HWL) and Steve McCreadie, CEO of the Lens.

Sign up here!

In this story

John Mathers

John Mathers

Healthier Working Lives Enterprise and Design lead

Latest news