Interesting guest post by Clyde Hutchinson Health & Sports Tech, Connector and Hummus Lover

Ireland is the last developed country without a functioning electronic health system.  Over the summer, we saw Botswana overtaking Ireland in international digital healthcare rankings.  On the surface this seems so bleak that is not worth trying, but where there is adversity comes opportunity and Ireland has all the ingredients required for a digital health revolution and eHealth Ireland can be the ignition.

The first thing you need in a revolution is revolutionaries, and our revolutionaries are HSE staff.  One of the first questions, I asked when joining eHealth Ireland was: “What happens when someone has a good idea?”.  Ideas which could benefit patients’ care or delivery processes are hugely valuable and we need to encourage HSE staff to discover and engage with innovative technology or be the originator of innovations themselves.  At the upcoming Health Innovation Week , will see the full launch of the Quality Innovation Corrodor (QIC) programme, devised by eHealth Ireland’s Monica Reynolds & Michael Redmond.  QIC, for the first time, allows HSE staff to champion technologies and innovations which improve patient care, and receive initial seed funding of up to €25,000 for the idea, within 3 weeks of the receipt of an approved business case.  In some cases, staff want to be involved with or develop innovations outside their current roles.   In order to capture this innovation, eHealth Ireland partnered with NDRC to create Health Tech, a pre-accelerator programme assisting staff in the development of ideas and concepts in a safe external environment.  Finally, we have developed several 2-day innovation challenges, which allow staff to  learn how to structure their ideas and discover innovations.  During the Health Innovation Week, we will be holding Bipinnovate, a challenge to come up with digital solutions for those with Bipolar disorder.

For any revolution, you need evangelisers.  Over the last two years an Irish movement of patient facing healthcare professionals has grown to be one of the most powerful voices in eHealth across Europe.  The Council of Clinical Informatic Officers (CCIO) has grown to over 270 individuals who are responsible for providing clinical governance for eHealth solutions and also the initial clinical interface for innovation coming into the Irish healthcare system.  As the CCIO are geographically spread across Ireland, they are going to be change leaders as the digital transformation gathers a pace across the Irish healthcare system.

Every revolution needs munitions and supplies. Ours are the utilisation of external sources of innovation.  There is a strong paradox in Ireland when it comes to innovative connected health companies. The Journal of mHealth ranks Ireland as 4th globally for the number of innovative healthcare start-ups,  but these start-ups and SMEs have sometimes struggled to get a foothold with Irish clients.  Earlier this year, we set up the eHealth Connect programme within eHealth Ireland to create a “touch point” for start-ups and SMEs looking to build their innovations within the Irish healthcare system.  We host meetings with start-ups in a different Irish city on the first Tuesday of every month, which  helps companies to connect to the right people or programmes to advance their technology; and helps eHealth Ireland embed leading innovation .  So far, we have interacted with 78 Irish companies and, during the Health Innovation Week, we are holding “A Pint of Digital Health, a night of match making between start-ups, SMEs, healthcare professionals and multinationals to further strengthen the Irish eHealth ecosystem.

 

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It’s always good to have allies within a revolution, external bodies which can partner in the digital transformation.  Recently the Health Innovation Hub (HIH), was launched nationally to help assist and accelerate the commercialisation of innovative healthcare solutions by facilitating access into the Irish health system via pilot projects.  Our eHealth Connect meetings are held at HIH offices and we are partnering to ensure eHealth innovations are being advanced.  Another partner is ARCH, a research centre helping connect academia and healthcare professionals with commercial organisations to assist in the evaluation of eHealth technology and solutions. Arch have been key in the continual evaluation of eHealth Ireland’s programmes.

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Finally, essential to any revolution is the control centre which to us, is patients and the public, we in eHealth Ireland are their officers.  The Innovation Showcase being held in the Science Gallery on the 22nd and23rd November is an opportunity for members of the public to come, see, experiment, and play with the innovations, such as virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), which are being trialled in the Irish healthcare system.  It is important that the public and patients alike get to see the “art of the possible” as we need everyone to be on board and pulling in the one direction if Ireland is going to be a leading light in the digital transformation with is sweeping Global healthcare then, ¡Viva la Revolución!

Dr Clyde Hutchinson is the eHealth Connect Manager at eHealth Ireland, a programme which works with start-ups and SMEs to help them to engage with the Irish healthcare system and allow access to their innovation.

Disruption and innovation in the Irish health system, by Richard Corbridge


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