What's your name and what position do you hold?
Sonia Neary, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Wellola (www.wellola.com).
What are your day to day responsibilities?
I am responsible for growing the business and supporting our current customer base at Wellola. This requires working collaboratively with our customers, linking in with our IT team and our local and UK-based sales teams. Given the current climate, I feel very fortunate to be working in the digital healthcare space and find the role really rewarding.
What is your professional background?
In a former life, I worked as a Physiotherapist in several Irish healthcare settings (from acute teaching hospitals to homecare and private practice); the result being that I became a big believer in leveraging digital technologies to support hospital-at-home and self-management care models. In a former life, many moons ago, I also trained in drama which was, and still is, a huge passion of mine.
In 2019, I was honoured to represent Ireland as a finalist in the global ‘Women Who Tech’ awards in Paris and to accept he ‘Integrated Care’ award from the Irish Medical & Surgical Trade Association (now HealthTech Ireland) on behalf of Wellola. I would consider myself an advocate for greater gender diversity in entrepreneurship, and enhancing support networks amongst female founders.
How do you think the industry is coping with the Covid-19 crisis? What lasting impact do you see on the sector?
Digital Healthcare is a really exciting and high growth industry at the moment and organisations such are ours are sharply focused on developing tools for minimising the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Innovative solutions in healthcare are required now more than ever before. Given that Ireland is one of the leading med-tech hubs globally, the level of innovation pouring out of Ireland in particular is laudable on a global scale.
This pandemic has encouraged us to adopt innovation and digitisation in healthcare (which lagged miles behind other industries in terms of digitisation) at a seismic pace. The lasting result will hopefully be in an improvement in healthcare delivery, with a shift towards community-based care and care-pathways that focus on a ‘right care, right place, right time’ model.
I think this is an extremely positive move, but do feel that in our race to digitise we may risk losing patients’ input into the development of these tools, which is essential to both their success and uptake. We should also look to prioritise the implementation of solutions that interoperate with others first and foremost, or else we are clocking-up large scale technical debt that will come at a cost to retrofit in years to come.
How do you see tech innovation transforming this industry? What do you think will be the major breakthroughs over the next 5–10 years?
Remote care delivery, remote monitoring, telehealth…. Prior to the pandemic, there was a growing understanding that reactive, acute, hospital-based models of healthcare were unsustainable and would soon be completely unﬁt to respond to growing demand (given that people are living longer with more chronic conditions).
In light of COVID, there has been a real drive toward remote monitoring and digital tools to support care delivery outside of the hospital setting. This breakthrough will hopefully have a positive impact on our being able to keep people safe and well at home for longer.
What will be the leading trends in the Healthcare industry in coming years and how will businesses need to adapt?
The leading trends… wow….there are so many that its challenging to narrow down. There is definitely a move towards giving patients more control over the healthcare management, from wearables to self-care apps for mental healthcare or access to their patient record. Also a move toward a shared-care record and integrated care approach, where various care providers can gain a more holistic perspective of that person’s health. Lastly, it would be remiss not to mention the capabilities of artificial intelligence and leveraging the data that is gathered from all of these routes and devices to potentially predict events and protect the individual preventatively. It feels like this is healthcare’s time for its own industrial revolution!
How will business need to adapt?
I’m in awe at how those on the frontline have adapted in response to this crisis. Pioneering leadership has also been shown by key decision-makers locally in implementing digital healthcare technologies at scale.
Many healthcare providers from sole trading practitioners to large hospitals are moving from paper records for the first time, some have certain elements of their practices or workflow digitised and others not. This is a huge behavioural change and ask for many healthcare providers, who are already under enormous pressure.
It can be tempting to cut corners given the urgent times we are living in. It is still vital that we pause and take a long-term, strategic view in relation to any technologies implemented; that we choose technologies that have availed of patient input in design, that can withstand scrutiny in relation to the privacy and data security standards they should meet and that they can interoperate if they are to stand the test of time.
Sonia Neary will be speaking at the inaugural Business Post Smart Health Summit, which takes place virtually on Thursday 22nd October
For more information visit www.smarthealthsummit.ie