'We need a health service that puts the patient first' - MSD boss

The challenge is to develop a model that provides balanced access and quality care, says Ger Brennan

25th January, 2017
Ger Brennan

What's your name?

Ger Brennan.

What position do you hold?

Managing Director, MSD Ireland.

How long have you held the position?

Since September 2016.

What are your day to day responsibilities?

I manage the Human Health business for MSD in Ireland. I am also the head of the Country Leadership Team which aims to grow MSD’s presence here by being a valued and trusted healthcare partner, a great place to work, and by developing new and innovative medicines that will increase the quality of life for Irish patients.

What is your professional background?

I joined MSD in 2010 as Business Unit Director and took on my first global role in Switzerland in 2013 as the Immunology Regional Marketing lead for Mid-Europe. I became Executive Director for MSD’s commercial operations in Europe and Canada in 2014.

My most recent role was Associate Vice President Global Franchise lead for Immunology, where I led the strategy development, execution and the business performance of MSD immunology portfolio across the EU, Russia and Turkey.

Tell us something very few people know about you?

I’m a fully qualified nurse. I qualified at St Vincent’s Centre, Daughters of Charity in Limerick, specialising in intellectual disability. I’m also a die-hard Tipperary fan.

You are speaking at the Health Summit 2017. What is your talk about?

I will be part of the panel discussing what the health service might look like in 2027. In 2016, MSD produced the report ‘My Healthcare, My Future’ - a major piece of research into public perceptions on the future of healthcare in Ireland, carried out by Ipsos MRBI. More than 1,000 people were interviewed for the report which focused on the values and principles that should underpin our health service now and in the future. These include access and affordability, respect for time and dignity as well as communication and technology. We believe this comprehensive body of research, which was launched last October, will be constructive in the discussions at the Health Summit.

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

We commissioned the research and embarked on this journey for the patient. The patient should always been at the heart of what we do, yet their voice is often lost in the wider debate.

However, increasingly, as empowered ‘consumers’, the public view has become even more influential. With the advent of social media, people are moving the debate to online chat rooms and getting healthcare advice from professor Google. This is set to only increase into the future and we need to ensure we are supporting patients wherever they are, be they online or offline. Therefore, technology platforms that accelerate our eHealth services need to be focused upon.

The research identifies a number of opportunities that technology brings, as well as pointing out the openness the public has towards other solutions such as community-based care. I firmly believe that technology and alternative healthcare solutions will help democratise quality healthcare for all.

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

I want to see a health service that puts the patient at the centre. One of the areas of public frustration to come from the report was long waiting times in hospitals, whether this is in the Emergency Department, waiting for a bed or for an outpatient appointment. Devising solutions to these issues needs to involve both industry and government alike and I’d like to see such collaborative structures in place in the future.

I also believe there are significant opportunities for community care, and shifting away from the overburdened acute hospital system.

Indeed, according to our research there is an overwhelming willingness for alternative methods of care to be provided - 93 per cent of those surveyed would be willing to use community-based rather than hospital-based care, if appropriate.

The community pharmacist is also a trusted source of advice and information, with 80 per cent of people willing to use their pharmacist rather than their GP if appropriate. The challenge here is to develop an overall model of healthcare that provides the right balance of access for the public and quality delivery of care.

Ger Brennan will be speaking at The 13th National Health Summit at Croke Park on February 7. For more information or to book tickets visit www.healthsummit.ie

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