Technology will play a major role in promoting change to the delivery of care

'The front-line workers have been stellar throughout the pandemic' says Mary Day, Chief Executive, St James's Hospital, Dublin

10th May, 2021
Technology will play a major role in promoting change to the delivery of care

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

Mary Day, Chief Executive, St James’s Hospital, Dublin.

St James’s Hospital is Ireland’s largest acute academic teaching hospital, occupying a prominent position at the forefront of the Irish health sector.

In partnership with its academic partner, Trinity College Dublin, its overarching ambition is to create a dynamic healthcare campus, which will be a leading healthcare organisation, nationally and internationally, improving health outcomes through collaboration, education, research and innovation.

What is your day to day responsibilities?

As a Hospital Chief Executive, I have the responsibility to ensure all aspects of how the hospital performs are working efficiently. This involves a balance in managing the day-to-day operations while leading strategic development initiatives required for long-term success. Overall, I am responsible for management of the hospital ensuring appropriate planning, management and control of services within allocated resources.

What is your professional background?

I am a nurse by training. My previous experience traversed diverse roles in Oncology / Haematology nursing in the UK and Ireland and included a two-year term in the Department of Health as Nurse Advisor in Professional/Practice Development, being responsible for supporting the Chief Nursing Officer on all aspects of policy affecting nursing and midwifery education and healthcare services.

I have been in a Chief Executive role since 2013.

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

The COVID 19 crises has presented the health service with an array of challenges but has also sparked innovation, flexibility, agility, responsiveness and resilience.

The front-line workers have been stellar throughout the pandemic managing increased normal demand, a continuing emergency, coping emotionally and physically in the COVID 19 battle. Amid the daily challenges there was a remarkable culture of innovation and creativity in every part of the healthcare system.

The intrinsic link between research and innovation across the hospital-university boundary accelerated during the pandemic, resulting in enhanced collaboration between scientists and clinicians. The seamless integration of research across the hospital-university boundary and the associated development of new treatments and technologies are the primary driver of health innovation.

What lasting impact do you see on healthcare delivery?

We need to harness the progress made during COVID in the collaboration across the university and hospital to maintain the culture of innovation and creativity which was evident during the pandemic. The intrinsic link with scientific discovery and bedside care “bench to bedside” was amplified during the pandemic, which demonstrated the integration of science and the health delivery system.

The overall strategic aim for St. James’s Hospital is to function as an Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) designed to leverage the value of integrating the tri-partite mission of service, education and research/innovation for the benefit of patients, the community and the knowledge economy.

The Mercers Institute of Ageing, under the leadership of Professor Rose Anne Kenny on the St James Campus, is a prime example of the success of the health/academic ecosystem. Clinical research, education and training are delivered within a standalone institute with strong Dublin 8 community outreach, enabling rapid knowledge exchange and innovation, from discovery to new service developments and new treatments/technologies, seamlessly from hospital to home deployment.

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

The use of technology will play a major role in promoting change to the delivery of care going forward. Technology is a powerful driver for change that play a pivotal role in the re-engineering of services, empowerment of people to take greater control of their health and wellbeing and accelerate innovation in healthcare.

Collaboration is key to success; we need to develop linkages with industry partners and within the Health Innovation Hubs.

The proposal for the Dublin 8 Health and Innovation Hub represents a unique opportunity to leverage the current development of the St. James’s Hospital Campus in order to revitalise the Dublin 8 area and establish a health innovation ecosystem. St. James’s Hospital Campus will, in time, be home to the new National Children’s Hospital and the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital. Upon completion, it will be Ireland’s first state of the art digital hospital campus, with an array of clinical specialities. The breadth and depth of specialities combined with concentration of health, education and research builds the case for the development of a health and innovation hub in close proximity to the campus. The proximity of clinicians and academic leaders to industry and startup healthcare companies within a Health Innovation Hub setting, has the capacity to produce a unique synergy between emerging technology and care provision.

The focus on digital technology, healthcare process improvement and key clinical areas including cancer and genomic medicine will place the campus at the forefront of key healthcare developments.

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

The pandemic amplified the requirement for investment in health infrastructure: a significant proportion of our infrastructure requires immediate investment to ensure it is resilient to deliver care safely in future emergency crises. Capital investment has a key role to play, both in enhancing service provision and as a driver of reform.

Demand for services is growing, driven in part by population growth and waiting list expansion and is predicted to increase significantly over the coming years. Providing adequate capacity to meet demand and also moving to new models of delivery will be pivotal to healthcare transformation.

The plan in St James’s is to reorganise services into Institutes structured around disease or organ systems rather then the traditional medical and surgical departments will consolidate clinical services with research, academia and innovation into one centre, which come together under the umbrella of an Academic Health Sciences Centre

The Trinity /St James Cancer Institute (TSJCI) is an example of where the campus is developing a centre that will integrate innovative and ground-breaking cancer science with patient focused clinical care.

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

The World Health Organisation estimates that 50% of the global burden of disease is chronic illness. It is widely acknowledged that our current system is overly hospital-centric, with fragmented community-based services and a lack of integration within and across different services. Acute care has become the default option for many, and reactive care takes precedence over proactive, planned and preventive care.

The trend in moving towards proactive and predictive care will require data driven platforms to enable clinicians to make predictive, prognostic decisions.

Clinical supply chain processes will transform the care delivery system to improve patient safety and performance. St James’s campus is an early adopter of RFID (Radio Frequency identification technology) to support track and tracing of product performance linked to patient outcomes.

Over the next decade, the digital world will continue to evolve to provide a more personalised approach to medicine. Genomic medicine is transforming how we prevent, diagnose, treat and predict many diseases. It is changing the care pathway and also fundamentally changing research and the translation of research into patient benefits.

Mary Day is speaking at the HealthTech Ireland Association’s 2021 virtual annual conference on Thursday, May 13. For full details and bookings visit

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