Can wearable technology help the healthcare sector prepare for the unexpected?

Can Wearable Technology Help the Healthcare Sector Prepare for the Unexpected?

February 2022

Thanks to advances in smart phone technology coinciding with gym closures caused by lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, smart watches and alternative wearable health devices transitioned from something of a “novelty toy” to an important aspect of everyday life.

Depending on the device, model, and manufacturer, these devices have the capability to measure blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, ECG, and even heart rhythm irregularities.

Dr Gero Baidara, Clinical Director of GPDQ, speaking about the role of these devices during the pandemic noted: “This year, in particular the ability to read one’s oxygen saturation, heart rate, and temperature has been invaluable in monitoring whether or not the wearer is suffering from symptoms of COVID-19.”

While we may not be at a stage where we can transfer all trust about our medical safety to digital technologies, there is no denying these devices are carving out a future for themselves within the healthcare sector, and with good reason too. With that in mind, in this blog we explore whether wearable technology can successfully alleviate stress in the healthcare sector and ultimately assist it in preparing for the unexpected?

Health has gone digital

According to there were 350,000 digital health apps on the market in 2021– that number was up 90,000 on the previous year. It should come as no surprise that people want to know about their health, particularly when it’s easy to find out, and doesn’t involve visiting the doctor.

But, what about the NHS? Are they calling upon the help of these services in the same way as the general public?

Some hospitals have already been utilising the capabilities of wearable devices for quite some time, issuing them to patients with diabetes so they can actively monitor their health stats.

The Freestyle Libre device has been available on the NHS for almost three years now. Similar in size to a £2 coin, this device measures glucose levels and relays essential information to an e-reader or smartphone so users can receive real-time findings, allowing them to take action when necessary.

As for the global wearable medical devices market, well, it’s growing exponentially. As of 2019, the largest market by region was in the US & North America however Central Europe is anticipated to speed past their Trans-Atlantic counterparts over the course of the next decade, fuelling a market growth rate of almost 20%.

A global market analysis report details how: “the rising popularity of connected devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) and the rapid growth of the technologically literate population globally are anticipated to fuel the demand for wearable technology over the forecast timeframe.”

Source: P&S Intelligence

How the pandemic highlighted a need for change

The first thing worth noting is the sheer volume of individuals now using digital healthcare technology to assist them with their regular healthcare needs. By the end of 2021 there were, for instance, more than 22 million active users of the NHS App.

In July 2021, the NHS reported that more than 50,000 people had registered organ donor preferences on the app during June while more than 600,000 prescriptions and 50,000 GP appointments were requested. While patients were actively prompted to use the digital platform, it could be said that the British public have actually become more accepting of technology’s place in their healthcare, and so now is the time to implement more.

A scheme in Northwest London called ‘wearables’ was used during the pandemic to analyse the condition of people who were quarantining before or after travelling abroad alongside healthcare workers who weren’t able to isolate at home. The scheme “collected the vital signs of people quarantining and round-the-clock data was monitored by a trained team.”

The technology involved varied. “Medical grade wearables can be as simple as a sensor that measures a single variable, such as a photoplethysmography. Others are more complex pieces of hardware worn around the arm or as a patch on the chest, that gather a selection of vital signs, with information typically relayed to clinicians for monitoring or analysis.”

The scheme was able to reduce the strain on the healthcare sector by limiting otherwise unavoidable transmission of COVID-19 and reducing use of PPE, which reached dangerously low stockpiles levels due to ongoing issues with supply chain and manufacturing.

In many respects, the scheme was a roaring success and emphasised just how much wearable technology has to offer an incredibly stretched healthcare provider.

Pritesh Mistry, Policy Team at The King’s Find, added: “Wearable devices can give a level of reassurance when people are being treated remotely that they’re not in danger.”

Perhaps the biggest stand-out feature of these devices is their ability to measure, record, and analyse round the clock and alert medical professionals when signs of concern or danger are reached.

NHS plans for wearable devices

Back in 2019 the NHS released the “Long Term Plan” which highlighted the healthcare service’s vision to implement digital devices across the board in a bid to limit hospital admissions and protect and reassure those who are being cared for remotely.

It also gave a view to the different types of NHS contracts suppliers can go on to win.

At present, the use of wearable devices remains minimal and is limited to certain areas of the country, perhaps because introducing such rapid developments during a period of such catastrophic turbulence as the pandemic would have been almost impossible. However, as we navigate the period ahead when it is clear that there will be continuing strain on the NHS, particularly hospitals, as they try to catch up with the backlog of procedures delayed by the pandemic whilst also dealing with intermittent COVID surges and exhausted staff, perhaps now is the best time to invest in options that will limit the strain on personnel and services.

A January 2019 report by the National Audit Office on NHS financial sustainability concluded that:

“The growth in waiting lists, the slippage in waiting times and the existence of substantial deficits in some parts of the system, offset by surpluses elsewhere, do not add up to a picture that we could describe as sustainable.”

The rapid introduction of wearable devices could reduce the need for routine and follow-up appointments while providing patients with reassurance that their condition is both stable and monitored, thereby enabling NHS resources to be focused on reducing waiting lists and providing urgent services.


It remains to be seen when and how the major introduction of wearable tech to the British healthcare system will occur. However, we are fairly confident its arrival will be in the not-too-distant future. With this arrival comes a rise in opportunity for a host of tech and software providers who are able to fulfil what are likely soon to be important healthcare contracts.

Medical equipment

How to tender in the healthcare supply market

Medical equipment

How to Tender in the Healthcare Supply Market

February 2022

The Healthcare Sector, particularly in the UK, is awash with some of the most lucrative contract opportunities available.

Did you know that the NHS, which accounts for 80 per cent of total healthcare spend, is associated with £27 billion worth of annual spend?

The beauty of fulfilling public sector contracts, especially if we consider hospital contracts and healthcare supply, is that people will always require healthcare, and in order for the government to provide this, they will always need goods and services.

Looking ahead, the government has pledged to increase funding for the NHS while, also overhauling health and social care, all of which only spells good news for those working within the hospital and healthcare supply chain, with the number of opportunities set to grow steadily.

Between January and October 2021, the number of contract awards signed in the UK healthcare sector sat at more than 6,000. Awardees ranged from medical equipment supply businesses providing diagnostic technology to organisations delivering training programmes and energy efficiency consultancy – highlighting just how dynamic the range of opportunities within the healthcare supply market is.

However, for businesses considering putting themselves out there to win a public sector contract in healthcare, one of the biggest questions they need answered is: how do I win a healthcare supply contract? So, in this blog, we’re going to explore how to do it.

How to get a contract with a hospital or a healthcare provider

There are a number of things you need to be aware of when bidding for healthcare supply contracts and you should attempt to follow these if you aim to be successful.

Analyse tender structure

Are you confident that you know everything that the tender entails? Double check the ways in which the tender is structured and if different elements of the opportunity are grouped together. If this is the case, then be sure before completing your tender application that you’re able to fulfil what is required. Always read the tender documents and make sure you answer the questions they ask (not the ones you hope they will ask) before going on to offer extras or show the quality of your goods or services.

Patient care and protection through policies and procedures

The Department of Health and Social Care will do their utmost to ensure patient safety so they will need to be assured that your services aren’t going to impact the quality of care which they provide. This will mean a close check of your internal policies and procedures – are they up to date and are you carrying out regular training? If you aren’t at present, this may be something you wish to consider before submitting a tender application to become a healthcare or hospital contractor.

Prove your worth

If a tender response is going to succeed, it will need to be backed up by evidence to suggest that your organisation is capable of filling the position. Call upon previous customers for testimonials and build case studies using your previous work.


You need to stay ahead of your competition if you’re going to win healthcare and hospital contracts but, thanks to HCI, the hard part can be all but removed, through the help of AI & machine learning, industry expertise, the opportunity to engage early, and many other additional, exclusive features.

While you’re here, why not take a look at our blog detailing everything you need to know about the UK and Global healthcare market?

Request a demo today and start your journey to becoming the next healthcare supply contractor.

How many years has the pandemic set back environmental sustainability?

How many years has the pandemic set back environmental sustainability?

February 2022

Just a week before the World Health Organization labelled COVID-19 a “public health emergency of international concern” a panel had sat down to discuss the ways in which the NHS could carve out a greener future in line with global attempts to achieve net zero carbon emissions.

Regardless of the global pandemic, being able to put a timeframe on such a feat for an organisation of the size of the NHS was always going to be particularly difficult.

In How to achieve a net zero carbon NHS during a pandemic (2021) scholar Emma Wilkinson details how, despite the rapidly developing virus that so heavily impacted the healthcare service, they still committed to achieving net zero by 2040 in a decision made in October 2021, referencing the inextricable link between the climate crisis and ill health.

A united approach against climate change

During COP26 in Glasgow, it was agreed that all UK health services would commit to becoming net zero. They were joined by 47 countries globally who agreed similar ambitions. Considering that 4.6% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from health systems, these commitments were significant.

When announcing the NHS’ decision to partner with the worldwide scheme supported by the COP 26 Health Programme, further reference was made to the association between driving down emissions and improving public health by Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid: “The impacts of climate change represent the biggest public health challenge of this century, which could be felt around the world through greater water and food insecurity, extreme weather events and increased infectious diseases.”

Mr Javid went on to add: “As a health community, we cannot simply sit on the sidelines – we must respond to climate change through urgent action, with global collaboration at its core.”

The UK Government has pledged considerable support so far. More than £330 million was invested in climate-smart healthcare and low carbon hospitals for NHS England. The devolved administrations have also committed to supporting net zero. NHS Scotland is due to have all small and medium vehicles operating at net zero by 2025, low carbon heating is to be used across all NHS new builds in Wales, while Health and Social Care Northern Ireland will emphasise their influence on supporting the supply chain to reduce their carbon emissions. These are just some of many announcements that have been made.

That said, however, how much of this is going to be playing catch up thanks to the events of the pandemic?

In this article, we take a look at the impacts of the pandemic on the NHS’ ability to reach net zero.

Pandemic pollution galore

NHS Scotland figures released in May 2021, some 14 months into the pandemic, revealed that 1 billion items of PPE had been used. The figures, which account for items used between 1st March 2020 and 5th May 2021 detail 664.8m gloves, 190.9m Type IIR masks, and 187.1m aprons. The volume of PPE being used were so large that an additional £7m in NHS contracts were awarded to deal with the waste.

Findings collated by a group of researchers in the US and China and published in December 2021 detailed how the world has created approximately 8 million tonnes of pandemic plastic waste since the beginning of the pandemic, of which a significant amount has now made it to the sea. What the report by Peng, Wu, Schartup et al (2021), published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, did reveal, however, was that despite the volumes of PPE and other disposable items used by European and North American nations, such as the UK & the US, which were hit hardest by the pandemic in terms of number of cases, relatively little pandemic plastic waste was created.

On the other hand, despite having had had 30% of total global cases as of August 2021, Asia was responsible for 72% of global plastic discharge.

Rizan, Reed, & Bhutta (2021) wrote in Environmental impact of personal protective equipment, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine “the carbon footprint of PPE distributed during the study period totalled 106,478 tonnes CO2e. The estimated damage to human health was 239 DALYs (disability-adjusted life years) and impact on ecosystems was 0.47 loss of local species per year.”

Disposing of waste

Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of the pandemic and the ensuing sustainability impacts was the fact we hadn’t negotiated such an event in just over a century, and were now doing so in at a time when we both used far more disposable medical equipment and were so conscious of our environmental impact.

PPE: Polluting Planet Earth (Dean, 2020) reported that if each individual were to wear a single-use face mask every day for an entire year, more than 66,000 tonnes of unrecyclable plastic waste would be produced. Tragically, there is no system in place yet for the environmentally friendly disposal of single use face masks that are potentially contaminated – the vast majority go to landfill.

The NHS labels waste as either infectious, offensive, or municipal – used PPE usually falls under the category of infectious or offensive and must be disposed of in a way that prevents infection. This usually involves burning at an offsite incineration plant.

There is controversy surrounding the burning of waste – while on one hand, it is used to heat local buildings and provide electricity (municipal waste contributed 2% of UK energy in 2018), incineration has also been criticised for releasing harmful gases and requiring the use of materials for burning that could otherwise have been recycled.

The true impact of the pandemic on sustainability

Unsurprisingly, it’ll be some years before we can accurately quantify how the pandemic has impacted global, domestic, and the NHS’ quest for net zero. That said, there have been a number of learnings and of course, failings.

More sustainable mask options, including reusable, washable alternatives are certainly something we expect to receive considerable investment over the coming years. Similarly, it is estimated that UK manufacturing would have reduced the carbon footprint of PPE by more than 12% while reusing gowns and gloves could have contributed a further 10% reduction.

That said, however, we successfully managed to adopt digitalisation during the pandemic, which considerably reduced travel requirements within primary care – balancing in some respects the environmental failures.

There are a number of different takeaways from the impact the last two years has had on the environment but, for now, the healthcare sector can reflect, learn, and issue new healthcare contracts to suppliers who believe they can help the system reach net zero successfully. Interested in finding out more about what HCI can do for you?

Before you go, why not take a look at our blog regarding the net-zero targets within the NHS? Alternatively, book a demo today and explore the world of opportunity in regard to healthcare tendering.

Supply chain inefficiencies in healthcare and why data is the solution

Supply Chain Inefficiencies in Healthcare and Why Data is the Solution

February 2022

One small abrasion to the supply chain link and the effects can be felt for years to come. A stark reminder of this came in 2021 when the Suez Canal blockade resulted in global losses of more than $9.6 billion a day.

When we think that the NHS spends approximately £27 billion every year on goods and services, and that recent announcements of additional NHS spend mean this figure will increase in the coming years, it’s clear why a lot of stakeholders are invested in ensuring the efficient operation of the healthcare supply chain.

International healthcare supply chain woes

Supply chain shortages and inefficiencies within the healthcare sector are by no means limited to the United Kingdom. It’s a global issue and as Douglas Hannah, writing in the Harvard Business Review, noted about the unpredictable state of the American system: “the pandemic demonstrated the devastating human and economic costs of this fragility: soaring prices and widespread shortages of critical medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE), and health care facilities struggling to protect staff and patients.”

Hannah goes on to reference the problematic nature of sourcing globally in a bid to keep costs to a minimum, particularly during events such as the pandemic, and why local producers truly came to the rescue when international supply chains ultimately collapsed. As Hannah commented: “They may never achieve the low costs of large overseas factories, but they do offer much needed strengths, including rapid response times and accessibility in times of crisis.”

Issues come to light within the NHS supply chain

The problems with the healthcare’s supply chain are by no means a new issue but, for many, the problems were only exacerbated by the events of COVID-19. Back in February 2016, Lord Carter produced a report detailing a need to improve operational efficiencies within the NHS, bettering their methods of choosing, using, and purchasing supplies, and eliminating “unwarranted variation in procurement across the NHS.”

After the Carter report, the decision was made by the Department of Health and Social Care to launch the Procurement Transition Programme that, over the course of the following five years, would go on to deliver £2.4bn of savings for the NHS through the provision of “clinically assured, high quality products.”

There is no denying that the future will require additional analysis of healthcare procurement and NHS tendering, taking learnings from failings recognised during the pandemic. However, there’s another elephant in the room that has not only highlighted but compounded issues – Brexit.

The NHS Confederation published a report in mid-January 2022 detailing what’s required from the UK Government to tackle the challenges of leaving the EU’s single market, setting out an eight-point plan that includes “long-term mutual recognition for UK and EU medical research” an “agreed mutual recognition of medical devices” and “a review of barriers to research” that would help support collaboration in world-leading innovation.

The report also calls for data sharing and cooperation between the UK & the EU, highlighting the importance of rapidly addressing cross-border health threats such as COVID-19.

Data is something we recognise as a playing a key role in the future of NHS procurement and is, in many respects, a crucial ingredient for a successful healthcare supply chain. If utilised correctly, data can transform the procurement process, eliminating efficiencies throughout. Here, we take a look at how healthcare, and more specifically the NHS, can introduce data-driven methodologies into their DNA.

Big supply chain analytics

First, it’s worth defining what big supply chain analytics is. McKinsey’s Big data and the supply chain report notes that: “big supply chain analytics use data and quantitative methods to improve decision making activities across the supply chain. It expands the dataset for analysis beyond the traditional internal data held and applies powerful statistical methods to both new and existing data sources.”

But why is this important?

Using supply data like that mentioned above, which is more complex than traditional spend analysis and supplier performance reviews, buyers can successfully find opportunities for predictive risk management, monitoring ongoing situations such as bankruptcies, natural disasters, and strikes, and taking decisive action early on.

Data driven decision making is undoubtedly one the standout reasons for implementing such an approach to healthcare procurement – it allows for the analysis of purchase orders, the trialling of new suppliers, and the monitoring of shipments. Data analytics allows buyers to benchmark performance and explore critical questions that would otherwise remain unanswered.

Due to the sheer size of the NHS, making decisions will often depend on the acquisition and, similarly, the accuracy of third-party data. By incorporating all possible data and aligning it, the most relevant, accurate information can be obtained, once again informing appropriate decision making.

Beyond internal decision-making regarding supply chain processes, transportation, warehousing, and manufacturing can all be improved by the implementation of appropriate, effective data capture and analysis.

That said, there must be an emphasis on improving how data is shared and corroborated throughout teams and those operating within procurement. Collaboration and shared understanding sit at the forefront of any successful supply chain – you need to communicate effectively with your suppliers, business partners, and your own employees to ensure the delivery of results.


Here, we’ve touched on just some of the reasons why the healthcare supply chain requires the use of data in years to come something which we envisage will only become more important as digital technologies ramp up. Book a demo today and open up a world of opportunity within healthcare tendering.