Simon Stevens - NHS England

Public-private partner

Name: Simon Stevens
Title: CEO of the National Health Service of the United Kingdom

When he started at the NHS in April 2014, Simon Stevens faced a mountain of seemingly insurmountable problems including a decade of failed efforts to digitize the patient records of the public system that serves the whole of the U.K. populace that reportedly sucked up in excess of £10 billion. On top of that, the system itself needs to achieve massive savings to remain afloat over the next decade--without requiring substantial tax increases.

Oddly undaunted, Stevens plunged in and has focused on innovations in chronic, remote, elder and mental care, as well as the actual implementation of electronic medical records and services, to help achieve that savings--much of which involves investing in the implementation of technology.

He has pledged to achieve a stunning £22 billion by 2020 in efficiency savings for the NHS--with up to £5 billion in savings coming from digitization over the next decade. That's a very short timeline and a huge sum, and several news outlets have reported that Simons will fall far short. But he's jumping into dozens of partnerships with leading medical and healthcare technology providers that could get him going in the right direction.

But before national skepticism set in, Stevens wrangled a commitment of an extra £8 billion a year above inflation by 2020 with £3.8 billion of that up front to invest in the technology that will help enable at least some of that savings. Stevens recently offered details on how a big chunk of that cash will be spent. The NHS budget itself is upwards of £100 billion annually.

The NHS has committed £4.2 billion ($6 billion) to a variety of digital health initiatives; these include £1.8 billion ($2.6 billion) to create a paper-free NHS, another £1 billion ($1.4 billion) on cyber security and privacy, £750 million ($1.1 billion) on updating remote care, £400 million ($575 million) to digitize the NHS, integrate apps and telehealth and £250 million ($360 million) on data for outcomes research.

Stevens may have the right background--encompassing government, political and private sector high-level experience--to enable the mired government bureaucracy to work effectively with corporate innovators to help the agency start to achieve its enormous goals.

He started out his career as an economic analyst for Guyana, responsible for promoting economic development for the Latin American country that had been a British colony but achieved independence in 1966. Then he joined the NHS, where he worked for almost a decade as a healthcare manager who ran hospitals.

He rose to the U.K. Secretary of State's Policy Adviser and then the Prime Minister's Health Adviser during the late 90s and early 2000s. Then he left to spend roughly a decade at health insurers and care provider UnitedHealth Group ($UNH) for almost a decade, ultimately climbing to the title of President of Global Health and EVP before the NHS wooed him back in 2014.

There is no doubt that his optimism in the face of difficult odds is soaring. His talk at the January meeting of the World Economic Forum was less-than-modestly entitled "Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution."

"Over the next decade major health gains won't just come from a few 'miracle cures', but also from combining diverse breakthroughs in fields such as biosensors, med tech and drug discovery, mobile communications, and AI computing," he told the world leaders.

He's taken the first steps toward that with a program of 7 test sites that integrate much of this sort of innovation via corporate partnerships with major industry players including the still mysterious Alphabet ($GOOG) née Google med tech company Verily; Royal Philips ($PHG), which dedicated itself more than a year ago to health and consumer technology; and IBM, whose Watson is among the leading artificial intelligence efforts.

-- Stacy Lawrence (email | Twitter)

For more:
U.K.'s NHS launches a series of med tech trials with Google's Verily, IBM, Philips
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Simon Stevens - NHS England