Saturday January 18, 2020

We need to ‘shift to the left’ in our delivery of health services.

‘The main challenge is that our current way of delivering healthcare services is absolutely unaffordable and unsustainable into the future’ says David Toohey, CEO of Syncrophi Systems Ltd.

15th January, 2020

What's your name?

David Toohey

What position do you hold?

I am CEO of Syncrophi Systems Ltd, a company dedicated to developing best-in-class medical-grade software solutions which help good people do great work at the hospital point-of-care.

What are your day to day responsibilities?

I lead the organisation, but as it is an emerging SME this work includes everything including product/business strategy, fund-raising, market engagement, sales activity, regulatory affairs and financial management. I’m pretty busy!

What is your professional background?

I’m a Chartered Engineer (Electronic System Design) and a Fellow of Engineers Ireland. I also have an MBA and post-grad qualifications in software engineering and in anatomy and physiology. I do tend to look at things through an engineering lens but that basic grounding has served me well. Having initially worked in high-tech avionics design after graduation, I migrated into the world of consumer electronics via Mars Inc (yes, the folks who make Mars bars) before joining Digital Equipment Corporation when they were the second-largest computer company in the world. These companies gave me the opportunity to fulfil management roles in manufacturing, marketing, quality, regulatory, engineering and corporate consulting. This then equipped me to take on a twenty-seven year odyssey in medtech. The medtech journey has been quite varied ranging from high-volume consumer products with Bausch+Lomb, leading-edge minimally invasive medical devices with Boston Scientific, a lengthy stint as a global executive with a large in-vitro diagnostic products corporation, Alere Inc., and now leading an eHealth informatics company. This latter role is extremely worthwhile at many levels.

At the societal level it is obviously exciting to bring to market a system that can have a profound effect on patient safety and staff productivity in all of our hospitals through eliminating millions of medically-relevant errors, cutting average length of stay and reducing escalations to critical-care settings. At the business level it is very energising to see the result of years of development work and financial investment begin to bear fruit.

You are speaking at the 2020 National Health Summit. What are you speaking about?

I will be a member of a panel who will be sharing real-life experiences relating to the challenges of getting technically innovative solutions adopted into the mainstream within our health systems.

What main challenges do you see for the healthcare sector in Ireland?

The main challenge is that our current way of delivering healthcare services is absolutely unaffordable and unsustainable into the future. We have got to find a better way. There are learnings which can be imported from other settings through benchmarking and standardisation of best-practice. The manufacturing industry faced a similar crisis in the eighties and responded by embracing change using what were then cutting-edge methodologies such as Six Sigma, Lean, Just-in-time, Enterprise Resource Planning, 5S and Poka-Yoke (mistake-proofing). These are tools that help good people to do great work and they all have a role to play in our healthcare system. They assist with planning, with problem-solving, with resource-allocation, with safety improvements, with hazard analysis, with productivity issues etc. They cannot be ignored forever. This is well recognised by the leadership of the HSE and there are some very promising programs being implemented in an effort to bend the cost curve. The most notable of these to me are the eHealth programme and the appointment of Professor Martin Curley as Director of Digital Transformation and Open Innovation. Martin has moved quickly to establish the Digital Academy which is driving early implementation of Demonstrator sites for promising technologies and widespread education opportunities for change-agents within the HSE through a custom-built Masters in Digital Health Transformation.

Where would you like to see the health service in 10 years time?

It is axiomatic to say that we need to ‘shift to the left’ in our delivery of health services. This is a phrase used by HSE leadership to denote the delivery of care closer to the patient (i.e. in the community or in the home) and with a smaller share being delivered in hospital settings. It can also denote an emphasis on prevention rather than cure through public health interventions such as engaging the public in lifestyle factor modification (e.g. healthy nutrition and smoking cessation programmes). I believe that eHealth has an important role to play in this shift to the left. It can not only support our hard-pressed frontline hospital staff to cope more effectively with the pressures of our aging population, but it can also provide a seamless health information management system which can make the right patient-specific information available to any authorised caregiver whether in the home, the GP surgery, the ambulance or the hospital. This stuff is happening elsewhere, let’s make it happen here.

David Toohey is speaking at the National Health Summit on Feb 6 in Croke Park – see www.healthsummit.ie for full details.

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