National Health Summit Ireland–Special Report

Reader Andrew Macfarlane, Commercialisation & Centre Manager, CASALA at The Netwell Centre of the Dundalk Institute of Technology, stepped forward to report on this past Wednesday’s Summit. (Please note the excellent cross-references for those who may not be familiar with Ireland-specific programs.) Many thanks Andrew from Editors Toni and Donna!

From an Industrial Age to Information Age Healthcare – National Health Summit, Ireland

The 10th National Health Summit, which took place in Dublin, Ireland, saw a good attendance and an impressive range of speakers. The event is primarily targeted at decision-makers involved in leading and managing the delivery of healthcare services in Ireland.

The morning session outlined the changing landscapes of healthcare delivery both in an Irish and International context. Next up, separate tracks covering Health Insurance (as the Irish government seeks to introduce Universal Health Insurance), Hospital Management & Digital Healthcare (the primary topic covered by this post). The final session covered helping patients stay healthy at home and an insightful panel discussion on reform of the health service.

Tony O’Brien, Director General of the Health Services Executive (HSE) provided the opening address, entitled “Choices for our health service”. The HSE is a large organisation of over 100,000 people, whose job is to run all of the public health services in Ireland. He highlighted that like most health care systems, they are facing rising demand and costs (current budget €13.6bn), and that at the same time has endured significant health budget cuts, 26% since 2008, with €600+m planned savings in 2014. The annual National Service Plan sets out key priorities.

Key takeaway from a digital health point of view is the policy aim of A New Model of Care Treatment at the Lowest Level of Complexity that is Safe, Timely, Efficient and as Close to Home As Possible. The HSE envisages transforming from an industrial age healthcare to information age healthcare, with cost-effective use of ICT. Challenging perhaps with a historical under-investment in ICT at 0.85% of budget vs EU average of 2-3%, a number of speakers referenced the “Ghost of PPARS” as reason for under investment.

Professor Aidan Halligan, Director of Education, University College London & Principal, NHS Staff College, England in a lively storytelling highlighted that the Cathedrals to Disease are on the way out and that people who want to feel important do half the harm in our healthcare systems, he called for renewed leadership and compassion in healthcare. Dr. Paul Grundy, Global Director of Healthcare Transformation, IBM spoke about their experience as a major buyer of healthcare ($2.7bn) and their successes in driving fundamental change towards patient-centered care.

In the Digital Healthcare track Prof. Jane Grimson, Director of Information, HIQA highlighted their role in adopting and developing national standards and guidance in healthcare information, with the key principles being patient-centric, integrated and standards based. She also spoke about the opportunity to Leapfrog ICT developments – for example; Go directly to Personal Health Records at national level.

Prof. Anthony Staines, ICT Strategy Unit, System Reform Group, HSE & School of Nursing and Human Sciences, DCU, described the current lack of information systems (with the exception of general practice) and the need to move to an integrated care model, through building on existing systems, with no Big Bang approach and utilising open standard based data exchanges. He highlighted a key building block as an Individual Health Identifier, with legislation underway to adopt it.

Dr. Joe Dalton, gave an overview of eHealth Strategy for Ireland published by the HSE and the how eHealth can transform Ireland’s Healthcare System while delivering significant economic opportunity. He spoke of Patient-Centric Innovation Networks as being critical and the need for eHealth to be viewed as a National Infrastructural Investment like our motorways.

In the panel discussion on Digital Healthcare, Bairbre Nic Aongusa, Asst. Secretary General, Department of Health said that nothing had really happen since publication of a 2004 Health Information Strategy, but that Ireland was about to experience a “whoosh” in relation to eHealth. It was mentioned that doubts lingered in relation to key benefits of telehealth, based on previous studies. Derek Richards, SilverCloud Health stated that was not his experience and that a key factor was the expansion of accessibility, particularly mental health. Chair David Doherty, CEO, 3G Doctor expressed a different view to some other panelist in that the first question to ask should be – Where is the traction and engagement, and the whole question of mobile first. The Health Innovation Hub was highlighted as offering potential innovative opportunities.

Dr. Steven Landers, President & CEO, VNA Health Group, USA gave a compelling talk on their experiences and why health care at home has never been more relevant. He called for an urgent mind and process shift supported by technology to care at home. The big opportunity is mobile and digital technologies supporting all stakeholders through enhancing healthcare workforce, supporting family caregivers (referred to as hidden angels), virtual visitations and remote monitoring.

The final panel discussion highlighted many of the challenges among different stakeholders in reforming the Irish Healthcare System, and the need to have patients as well as other stakeholders involved, informed, empowered. “General Practice is in crisis with young and old doctors are leaving” Dr. Ray Walley, Irish Medical Organisation. Last thoughts from panelists: collaboration, invest in general practice, common sense, multi-year budgets and patient engagement.

Overall, some interesting discussions, but in transforming from an industrial age to information age healthcare system, is enough consideration being given to digital health supports at the widest points of care – Self Care, Home and Community?

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