Empowering healthcare providers to make more informed decisions with Real‑World Evidence

Sarah Blackburn is the Real-World Evidence Network lead at LOGEX UK. She entered this field thanks to her medical degree and background. Coming from a family with a solid medical background, she always wanted to work in healthcare. In her 20 years of experience working with the NHS, she has primarily dealt with market access for innovative solutions and technology. In this interview, Sarah shares her views on Real-World Evidence (RWE) and explains how these data can help NHS improve patient care.

Could you share a bit about your career path and how it has shaped your view on real-world evidence in healthcare?

Sarah: Certainly! My journey began at Johnson & Johnson, where I immersed myself in market access, marketing, and sales of their MedTech division. I focused specifically on endoscopic staplers at a time when laparoscopic surgery was just taking off. It was an exhilarating experience, being part of a company that prioritised research and development to enhance patient care. I had the privilege of spending time in operating theaters, witnessing firsthand the impact of our products on patients.

“Bringing innovation and clinical evidence and how it can improve patient outcomes is what really drives me.”

During my tenure at Johnson & Johnson, I realised the importance of providing convincing evidence to healthcare professionals. We had to prove that our offerings were superior to competitors’ and that certain procedures were better options for patients. This deepened my understanding of the significance of clinical studies and evidence in influencing patient care.

Later on, I embarked on a different adventure, working on the launch of an innovative product for breast and abdominal wall reconstruction. It was a game-changer, shifting the way surgeons approached reconstructive breast surgery. To gain acceptance for this product, we needed robust clinical evidence, showcasing its superiority and versatility. Witnessing patients benefit from these advancements solidified my passion for improving patient care through innovation and technology.

How does your current role at ARWEN align with your desire to have a positive impact on healthcare?

Sarah: ARWEN is the perfect fit for me because it allows me to make a tangible difference in healthcare. With the NHS embracing digitalisation, Real-World Evidence (RWE) has become a promising avenue for driving positive change. We can now see the real-world impact of novel treatments on diverse patient populations, addressing the health inequalities that exist within our society. 

One aspect I find crucial is the ability to facilitate collaboration among different stakeholders in the NHS. ARWEN enables clinicians and trusts to compare and share best practices, promoting standardised treatment for specific patient groups. By harnessing the power of RWE, we can optimise patient outcomes and enhance cost-effectiveness, ultimately benefiting both individuals and the entire healthcare system. 

What additional contributions can ARWEN make to improve healthcare? 

Sarah: One of the remarkable aspects of ARWEN is its ability to provide valuable insights into NHS practices. Through our platform, NHS institutions can gain a deeper understanding of their diagnostic procedures, treatment pathways, and prescription practices. We create benchmarks and analyse various topics, helping hospitals identify areas for improvement.

For example, we’ve come across cases where certain NHS organisations spent significantly more on a specific drug compared to benchmarked hospitals within our network. By connecting treatment pathways, outcomes, and costs, we can empower healthcare providers to make more informed decisions that enhance both the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of care.

Can you provide an example of a specific improvement a hospital has made after joining the ARWEN network?

Sarah: There was an interesting case from an international breast cancer study. By comparing their standard of care and treatment pathways, different centers discovered that the UK was the only European country performing mastectomies as day cases or outpatient procedures without compromising clinical outcomes. This insight proved to be a game-changer for other providers across Europe. 

Thanks to the sharing of Real-World Data through our network, healthcare professionals were able to learn from one another and adopt practices that led to better patient outcomes.  Outpatient surgery proved to be beneficial for both patients and health systems. Examples like these motivate me every day, knowing that we are facilitating the sharing of best practices and driving positive change in healthcare. 

How do you find working for ARWEN compares to your previous professional experience? What makes this experience different?

Sarah: Working for ARWEN has been an enriching and fulfilling experience that goes beyond what I encountered before. While selling medical devices was exciting and impactful in its own right, it was focused on specific procedures and products. In contrast, ARWEN allows me to contribute to lasting change across various areas of healthcare. 

Collaborating with organisations like the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to inform future guidelines is incredibly rewarding. We have the opportunity to influence healthcare practices at a broader level and drive systemic improvements. Everyone at LOGEX and ARWEN shares a passion for sustainable healthcare, and being part of a team dedicated to achieving long-term positive impacts is truly fulfilling. 

What are ARWEN’s plans for the coming years?

Sarah: Looking ahead, we have some exciting plans in the pipeline. Currently, we are working closely with NICE on the renal cell carcinoma project, a partnership that will shape future guidelines in this area. We aim to expand our network by recruiting more hospitals for this project and other initiatives, including children’s hospitals. 

Our main goal is to help NHS organisations benchmark their activities and outcomes and gain valuable insights from Real-World Data. By facilitating constructive discussions and collaborations, we strive to improve the care for patients while reducing costs. ARWEN’s mission is to drive positive change in healthcare, and we are committed to working tirelessly towards achieving that vision. 

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