Connected health is a new and growing sector within Irish healthcare that will cut costs and improve quality of life. Such was the message at the BioConnect event on connected health held in the Davenport in Dublin yesterday.
The first of the three speakers to address the packed-to-the-brim audience was Declan Bogan, from BioBusiness, who had previously written an article on the matter in an issue of Life Sciences Review. He provided an overview of the topic, referring to reports etc that point to the high potential of a new sector based around the notion of connected health, which he cleverly described as “the integration of ICT and medical devices”.
ICT and medical devices just so happen to be two areas of technology that Ireland is pretty darn good at. Quite often the latter has been compared to ICT, in terms of its growth and potential for the country. So the minute Dr Bogan combined the two, my ears pricked up – along with, I’m sure, many other audience members.
Dr Seamus Donnelly, medical director of the Clinical Research Centre (CRC) at St. Vincent’s University Hospital and University College Dublin (UCD), followed and made the point about the savings that connected health could entail for the country – both individuals and Government. Again, he presented connected health as an opportunity for the State.
David Burrows of Valentia Technologies represented, perhaps, connected health in realisation. Valentia provides a range of pre-hospital and patient care equipment, a lot of which would fall under the banner of connected health.
The tone of the event was certainly optimistic, with a feeling that here we have the beginnings of an exciting and vital service that could create employment, save money and increase the quality of life for the elderly and those who suffer from chronic illnesses. Indeed, as Dr Donnelly pointed out, the top five most costly ailments to the State (diabetes and asthma among them) are well suited to take advantage of connected health offerings.
There was, however, some questioning as to the cost to GPs. In many cases, the GPs would be the “middle man” (for want of a better word) that connected health would cut out. Also, at the moment (and it is still early days) there is a lack of standardisation and infrastructure. And it seemed to me that there is need for all the players in connected health across the island of Ireland to come together.
If the sector is to develop further, these issues will need to be addressed, but its support structures are currently impressive. It represents the evolution of healthcare in general, but certainly also an excellent opportunity.
The medical devices hub in Galway is the biggest in Europe, and our ICT operations may have dwindled in the last few years due to cost constraints but Ireland remains a recognised centre of excellence. With the right support and, of course, funding, connected health could be the next big step in developing the life sciences here.
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