It seems like a simple premise – the patient should be at the centre of their care regime.
In practice, it can be anything but. The patient revolves around, and is processed by, fixed assets, fixed regimens and a healthcare system that often, by necessity, reverts to a one-size fits all model.
Innovation in Ireland’s medtech sector is driving a new way of meeting the growing demands of a changing population, as an aging cohort brings new care demographic challenges, such as chronic illness and constant care requirements.
A digital connected healthcare system will do much to meet this demand, by using the power of connected tech, linking patient data silos and allowing primary caregivers to move from episodic intervention to personalised and more effective prevention and management.
What connected healthcare looks like today
Devices as simple as smartphones, smartwatches and tablets, linked to monitoring apps, drug regimens and patient data are at the vanguard of individual connected healthcare. The challenge is to integrate these into the daily routine of a national connected healthcare system.
Ireland’s healthcare ecosystem is well-placed and already delivering innovations in the medical, healthcare and life sciences sector.
The medtech sector in Ireland has experienced growth at an exponential rate over the past decade. The sector has grown from 50 to 350 medtech companies within 20 years. Currently, 15 of the top 20 global medical devices companies have a base in Ireland. The sector employs 38,000 workers throughout the country – the highest number of people working in the industry in any country in Europe, per head of population.
Ireland possess world-class capabilities in research with intensive collaboration between companies, research institutions and clinicians. This makes Ireland a perfect platform for the industry to start, innovate and continue to scale as one of the five global emerging hubs for the medical technology sector.
Building on two decades of investment in science and technology, the Irish Government is currently implementing a strategy called Innovation 2020. One of its main aims is to ensure that companies based in Ireland outperform competitors in international markets. A key target of the strategy is to grow the number of research personnel in industry by 60% to 40,000 by the end of the decade.
This sees Irish connected health start-ups benefit from a desire among local healthcare providers to adopt and embrace new technology.
Key decision makers are adopting and implementing change. Ireland’s national Health Service Executive (HSE) is working closely with industry to embrace and implement connected healthcare devices in situations in which clear operational or financial benefits accrue.
As a result, Ireland’s connected healthcare ecosystem is proving increasingly productive, with state agencies, academic research institutions and health bodies working closer with industry than ever before.
The Irish-based European Connected Health Alliance actively promotes and supports the connected healthcare agenda through its presence in more than 40 countries. ECH Alliance events are the perfect forum for investors, partners and start-ups to engage with leading experts from government, education, multinationals and the indigenous sectors.
HIHI facilitates and accelerates the commercialisation of innovative healthcare solutions by offering companies the opportunity for pilot and clinical validation studies and the health service access to innovative products, services and devices that they may not otherwise be exposed to. HIHI is built on the recognition that collaboration with enterprise can benefit patient care, patient pathways and outcomes; a key driver for connected healthcare.
The ecosystem would be nothing without the skill sets to grow. The Irish Medtech Association offers a Connected Health Skillnet that offers learning, development and networking opportunities.
This innovative ecosystem is why Ireland’s prescription for delivering connected healthcare is in rude health.