Test Beds: Evaluating innovations in the NHS

Test Beds: Evaluating innovations in the NHS

From May 2016 to July 2018, NHS England and the Office for Life Sciences funded seven ‘Test Bed’ projects across the country. These projects tested innovative combinations of digital technologies and models of care in real-world clinical settings, to assess whether they could deliver better patient outcomes at a lower cost to the health and care system. The projects involved many innovative ideas to incorporate technology into the way patients are cared for, or care for themselves. Examples are: technology-assisted monitoring of patient health, predictive algorithms to spot the first signs of a deterioration in health, screening to facilitate early intervention and high-tech ways to increase patient activation to self-care.

Understanding what works well and what does not when it comes to incorporating technology into how patients receive their care was a core part of the programme. Yet generating this evaluation evidence is not straightforward. Standard approaches to assessing whether benefits have been delivered do not always work – innovative interventions need innovative ways to assess whether they are effective.

Frontier Economics has worked with NHS England to bring together the learning from across the Test Bed projects about how we can best generate evidence on what is effective, what is not and the conditions under which patients, carers and the health system benefit most. This is contained within an evaluation handbook published yesterday. The handbook forms part of a suite of Test Beds legacy and learning publications that seek to share learning from the programme with both future Test Beds, and the wider health and care system.

The key themes within the handbook are:

  1. Be clear about what it is you want to learn about, and ensure the right people are around the table at the start of the project to agree the evaluation focus and objectives.
  2. There is no one size fits all method for undertaking an evaluation. Select the most appropriate evaluation method, given the context of the intervention.
  3. Allow time and agree with all relevant stakeholders as early as possible the evaluation design, including data collection and data sharing methods.
  4. Qualitative and quantitative evidence need to be considered together. Qualitative research gives insights into why and how things happen, while quantitative research provides more confident estimates of the extent of change, causes and effects and differences across contexts and subgroups.

Frontier regularly advises policy makers and businesses across the health and social care system on evaluation approaches and robust evaluation methods.

For more information, please contact us at media@frontier-economics.com, or call +44 207 031 7000