Ireland is fortunate to have a thriving healthtech industry

‘These new interventions have shown the benefits of healthtech adoption’ says Ray Cahill, Territory Vice President International, Change Healthcare

5th May, 2021
Ireland is fortunate to have a thriving healthtech industry

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

Hi, I am Ray Cahill. I work with a global healthcare company called Change Healthcare who provide solutions aimed at enabling better, more efficient healthcare systems. I am the Vice President for the International Business and am also the Chairperson for Healthtech Ireland Association.

What are your day to day responsibilities?

I work within our Enterprise Imaging business. We deliver digital software and services to assist clinicians diagnose radiology and cardiology images. In Ireland we have implemented and support the HSE’s National Integrated Medical Imaging System (NIMIS), which is used extensively throughout the country to support clinical care.

As VP for our International Business I am responsible for our customer satisfaction, business operations and growth in our European and Middle East regions.

What is your professional background?

I started my career in the Health Insurance industry working for Vhi Healthcare which provided me with strong understanding of healthcare operations and structures.

In 2000 I moved to Fujitsu Consulting where I had a great opportunity, over ten years, to learn my trade as a Project and Programme Manager, working in many industry sectors and projects of all shapes and sizes.

In 2010 I joined McKesson, (re-named Change Healthcare in 2016) as Programme Director to implement the HSE’s NIMIS programme and progressed through a number of roles into my current position.

I am a fellow of the Irish Computer Society.

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

From an industry perspective, we have been experiencing a “digital dawn” with rapid and increased adoption of digital health solutions that have had a significant impact on our ability to support healthcare workers and patients during the Covid-19 crisis. Our industry has responded by providing services, often freely, as we all pull together to help where we can.

The Healthtech sector mobilised its teams to support the fight against the pandemic. We worked closely with the HSE and the front line to provide solutions to empower clinicians to operate in new challenging conditions.

Ireland is fortunate to have a thriving healthtech industry ranging from large scale global companies to local innovative SME’s.

We saw the rapid deployment of digital and diagnostic solutions to support workflows such as testing, scheduling, information exchange and community services. The necessity for action removed many of the barriers that had existed in the past which prevented these solutions being adopted.

In many cases the solutions were readily available and quickly integrated into the health system. Our industry recognises and supports the drive to remove inefficiencies from our health service and the shifting of care to the community. The investments that we have made in this area assisted in ensuring the availability of solutions when required.

What lasting impact do you see on healthcare delivery?

The way in which we interacted with the healthcare system fundamentally changed during the pandemic. As we navigate our way to the new normal, we should assess whether the old way is the right way. Should the waiting rooms be full of sick people when virtual consultations and smart devices can support diagnosis and treatment? These new interventions have shown the benefits of healthtech adoption in a safe and sustainable way and I think it’s vital that we maintain the momentum in enabling access to new technologies and innovations, building on and scaling what we have achieved so far. They also align well with and support our current health strategy, Sláintecare.

The value of telehealth and further home-based care enabled by digital health has been proven during the pandemic and there are many more applications going forward that will support community health workers and patients in a more comfortable way as we further enable digital health transformation. We have long discussed the need to keep people out of hospital where possible and we have seen how this can be achieved safely during the current crisis. The opportunity is there to grow our capability in this regard, building on our achievements so far with digital health adoption and leveraging technology to deliver safer, better care for all of us.

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

Oftentimes speedy transformation can be achieved by utilising the existing technology in a more efficient way. Over the next few years, we will see the adoption and rollout of the unique patient identifier into the systems that are currently operating throughout Irish healthcare. This is a critical step to ensure our health systems are connected and clinicians and patients have access to the most accurate information about their health. There have been significant steps made on this initiative during Covid which is good news.

As we “join the dots” between our systems it will give us the visibility and insight into what’s working well within the system and what needs to change - an important step in managing efficiency and putting resources where they are most needed. Automation and use of artificial intelligence will play a key role in transforming and supporting healthcare delivery in the future.

We will see things like smart bandages for chronic wound care becoming the norm, dramatically improving the wellbeing of many people. 5G will enable real time connectivity for emergency services with care providers and specialists, with telemetry, HD visual and sound enabling life-saving treatments on route to hospital. There are many more examples, but one of the major enablers to innovation will be in partnerships. Partnerships and collaboration between digital, diagnostic and device companies, working together with the health service and patient representatives to solve issues affecting people’s lives has the potential to truly transform how healthcare is delivered in Ireland.

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

There are many challenges as our health services work to deliver care in the midst of a pandemic with financial constraints and a heavily burdened workforce. We have an ageing population and an increasing incidence of chronic disease to contend with. With these challenges in mind, it can be difficult to see where the funding and resources for digital transformation will come from. Value-based rather than cost-based care and associated appropriate evaluation of digital innovations will be vital to ensure we achieve best in class solutions to tackling the challenges we face within current resources. This, together with appropriate regulations, can break down barriers to digital adoption and lead to better outcomes, efficiencies, and cost savings.

A collaborative approach between the public, private, regulatory and industry sectors is necessary to achieving this.

HealthTech Ireland is playing a key role through our Leadership Forum, bringing together some of our largest industry operators in digital, diagnostics, devices, pharma and insurance with representatives from the health service with the collaborative goal of supporting our health system in reducing the barriers to adoption of digital health.

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

A leading trend emerging is patient involvement in the management of their own healthcare. People are, in general, becoming more health literate and demand to play an increasing role in how they receive care. Access to our own health records and the ability to share our health information as we see fit is also part of this. Digital transformation of healthcare results in an exponential increase in the generation of health data as we record many health parameters from our homes such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels and much more. Artificial intelligence will be key to analysing all these data such that meaningful information can be communicated to healthcare providers appropriately. Accepting and adapting to this emergence of technology enabled and often passive recording of health status requires a significant cultural shift from the policy level, right through public and private healthcare delivery and supported centrally by the public and private payers for healthcare.

Ray Cahill is speaking at the HealthTech Ireland Association’s virtual annual conference on May 13th. See www.healthtechirelandconference.com for details and for bookings.

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