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'The Irish healthcare system is in desperate need of new ideas and new solutions'

Health Innovation Hub Ireland (HIHI) works across the health sector with Irish businesses to creatively solve problems and improve patient care, writes Prof John R Higgins.

Prof John R Higgins Principal Investigator Health Innovation Hub Ireland

THE IRISH HEALTHCARE system is in desperate need of new ideas and new solutions to deeply embedded problems.

Health Innovation Hub Ireland (HIHI) works across the health sector with Irish businesses to creatively solve problems and improve patient care. Harnessing this innovation, through development of new healthcare technologies, products and services, will help to establish Ireland as a leading location for start-ups and will help to create Irish jobs.

The opportunity to innovate is something that we provide at HIHI. For companies, we connect products with people qualified to test them. For healthcare professionals we provide the support structures to develop ideas that will improve patient care.

HIHI will further support this innovation out with dedicated education programmes available to all HSE staff.

Positive aging

This week HIHI launched a double national call for businesses with new healthcare products. There is a focused call for innovations that address a specific HSE priority theme  – Enabling Positive Aging - and an open call for innovations that address any healthcare need.

The best applicants will be brought together for a Dragon’s Den style pitch in September, with the winning products fast tracked into Ireland’s health service for study. HIHI offers a powerful quid pro quo. For companies it is the opportunity for pilot and clinical validation studies and for the health service it is early access to innovative products and devices.

The total spend on healthcare in Ireland is among the highest in the OECD. Our healthcare outcomes don’t seem to reflect this level of investment. Something has to change.

Investment isn’t a panacea

Of course extra investment would help, but it’s not a panacea. The move worldwide is towards personalised healthcare that empowers the patient. For instance, TickerFit, a previous HIHI company, with a product used in cardiac rehab enables clinical teams to prescribe, educate and monitor a patient’s recovery from a distance through a wearable device.

Broadly speaking, treatments such as this could mean there are less patients attending hospital and more care takes place in the community. This is the direction that we should be taking our health service in and HIHI can help with that.

The HSE faces many pressures including a rapidly ageing population, rising incidence of long-term conditions, increased costs and budget limitations. The HSE recognises that collaboration with enterprise through HIHI can benefit patient care, patient pathways and outcomes. This is why the HSE is directly involved.

An open door 

The national call is only one of several ways in which HIHI can help reform and improve the Irish healthcare system. HIHI provides an open door for staff from all parts of the health service that have ideas and solutions to problems they encounter in their work.

Anybody can contact us; our door is open in Cork, Galway and Dublin. We assess ideas and concepts for healthcare innovation from all staff – clinical and non-clinical. We act as mentors, and advise on taking an idea and developing it into a service or product.

The most worthwhile innovation in healthcare will come from the frontline. These busy people just need the opportunity and the encouragement to tap into their own expertise.

Losing our entrepreneurs

For many years now Ireland has been losing some of its most creative healthcare entrepreneurs. Places like the Mayo Clinic in the US can offer integrated clinical practice, education and research and embrace new ideas easily. They recognise the value of Irish creativity.

HIHI will do everything possible to keep these innovators and their innovations here in Ireland. We want to drive the HIHI process across the length and breadth of this country. Irish companies should be able to develop successfully within a system that nurtures and grows indigenous enterprise.

HIHI will ensure that the Irish healthcare system will test their products and services and then leverage these new products and services to the benefit of our patients. HIHI has already made significant progress. We have worked with inspiring Irish entrepreneurs in companies such as ViClarity, TickerFit, Critical Care, FastForm, Complete GP – the list goes on.

When you consider the HIHI national call, just take a moment to reflect on the possibilities that an initiative like HIHI brings. Here is an Irish grown, government backed, good news story in health with potential for change that is boundless.

Prof John R Higgins is Principal Investigator Health Innovation Hub Ireland, UCC Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Clinical Director Maternity Directorate South/Southwest Hospital Group.

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About the author:

Prof John R Higgins  / Principal Investigator Health Innovation Hub Ireland

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