Digital health enables better and earlier disease management

‘Normalising of use of Digital Health particularly telehealth and remote patient monitoring’ says Maeve McGrath, Head of Healthcare Innovation, Roche

10th September, 2021
Digital health enables better and earlier disease management

What's your name and what position do you hold?

Maeve McGrath, Head of Healthcare Innovation, Roche Ireland

What are your day to day responsibilities?

I work with a cross functional team in Ireland, including experts in Digital Health, Policy, Patient Engagement, Communications and Personalised Healthcare. We are focused on identifying opportunities in Ireland to create partnerships that transform healthcare delivery and that help realise Roche’s 10 year ambition - to deliver three to five times more patient benefit at half the cost to society. Beyond Ireland I work with my international colleagues on Digital Health / Innovation to problem solve and find use cases that can scale beyond borders. Roche is currently transforming the way it works, so part of my day to day also involves looking at how we embrace agile ways of working.

What is your professional background?

I have been working in the HealthTech / Life Science sector for almost 20 years, since joining an Irish company called Two-Ten Health, developers of an Electronic Health Record. It was a start-up when I joined as a newly qualified doctor, so there was plenty of opportunity for hands-on learning from creating user stories to selling internationally, pitching to VCs, project managing digital transformation and creating partnerships for interoperability, the only thing I didn’t learn to do was code! In 2019 I joined Roche to lead Healthcare Innovation in Ireland.

How do you think the healthcare sector is coping with the Covid-19 crisis?

People have been amazing, especially those on the frontline, and how they have navigated and innovated during the pandemic. Collaboration and adoption at speed has been a real highlight - we are all familiar with the big news stories such as pharma companies collaborating on vaccines and development of digital solutions such as covid apps but there are also so many inspiring examples of resourcefulness and creativity leading to incremental innovation that don’t make headlines. Another positive development has been the increase in partnerships between public and private sectors to solve systemic problems.

What lasting impact do you see on healthcare delivery?

Normalising of use of Digital Health particularly telehealth and remote patient monitoring, so instead of ‘Digital Health’ being a topic, it is just a tool in delivery, to improve access, capacity and enable care outside the bricks and mortar of the acute hospital setting,

How do you see tech innovation transforming healthcare? What do you think will be the major breakthroughs over the next 5–10 years?

Data and AI will be significant drivers.Using real world data,and applying AI will allow us to better understand disease progression for drug discovery, for diagnosing and intervening earlier, as well as identifying the right treatment - with the ultimate aim to move towards prevention. This means looking at the patient journey in its entirety – not just at points of traditional interaction. Consider that the amount of medical knowledge now doubles every 72 days, compared to every 7 years in the 1950s, so we need technology to help navigate and apply this body of knowledge to improve patient outcoems.

What do you think are the key challenges in the digital transformation of the health service?

Change management is often overlooked, the focus tends to be on the technology but it needs to be balanced with the focus on the people who will be using the technology - how will it benefit, not burden them. Digital Transformation in healthcare needs to be approached as a clinical project not an IT project.

What will be the leading trends in healthcare in the coming years and how will patients and providers need to adapt?

Increasing role of genomics and personalisation of healthcare, which in turn will shift the dial towards prevention and wellness. Also as digital health enables better and earlier disease management, particularly for chronic conditions, a shift away from traditional model of care in acute hospital settings to community based and at home care - and we are seeing good examples of the potential of this in Ireland today with the HSE’s Living Labs.

Maeve will be speaking at the Smart Health Summit on September 14. Visit for more info

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