Healthcare services in Ireland could be transformed as a result of research conducted at the new Connected Health Technology Centre launched by Richard Bruton T.D. Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.
The €5 million Applied Research for Connected Health (ARCH) Technology Centre is funded by the Department of Jobs through Enterprise Ireland and is also supported by IDA Ireland.
ARCH is hosted at University College Dublin (UCD) where researchers from clinical, engineering, technology, policy and economic fields – with input from University of Limerick (UL) and almost all Higher Education Institutes in the country with connected health research capabilities – will collaborate to deliver on the connected health research agenda defined by its industry steering group.
Launching ARCH at a demonstration of the connected health technology in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital this morning, Minister Bruton said: “Healthcare is a key sector which we have targeted as part of our Action Plan for Jobs, and we have put in place a range of measures including the establishment of a national healthcare innovation hub to support more Irish companies to establish and grow jobs. The technology centre we are launching today will be another crucial support for job-creation in this area. By investing €5 million, and above all by bringing together industry and researchers to work on common problems, we can develop cutting edge technologies and accelerate job-creation right across the country”.
Connected Health is the utilisation of “connecting” technologies i.e. communication systems – broadband, wireless, mobile phone, fixed phone lines – and medical devices and treatments for healthcare applications. In addition, technologies relating to sensors, alarm systems, vital sign monitoring devices, health informatics and data management systems are also fundamental to the development of connected health solutions.
Explaining the need for a connected health approach to delivering clinical services, Michael O’Shea, ARCH Centre Director said; “Every country in the world is facing infinite demand for healthcare services from finite resources, spiralling costs caused by the invention of new drugs, medical equipment and procedures, higher patient expectations and an ageing population (by 2051, close to 40% of the EU’s population will be older than 65). Combined with shortages of health professionals, the scale of the challenge is daunting. However advances in technology, such as those being developed through ARCH, are enabling a shift towards personalised healthcare and information-based health services which will improve patient experiences and reduce the cost of delivering healthcare.”
During the initial research phase, the team at ARCH under the direction of UCD’s Professor Brian Caulfield, UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population Science, focused on caring for patients with dementia. The ARCH model will now be applied to a broader range of clinical conditions as determined by industry and healthcare needs such as diabetes and heart disease.
ARCH is headquartered at NexusUCD, the Industry Partnership Centre at UCD, and there are currently 15 industry partners steering the ARCH research programme including; ADA Security Systems, Boston Scientific, Hermitage Medical Clinic, ICON, OpenHealth, Novartis, Relate Care, S3 Group, Swiftqueue, Theya Lingerie, Two Ten Health, Vitalograph, Philips, Resmed and Vu2Vu; all actively involved in the connected health sector.
Representing the industry steering group, its independent chairman Oliver Tattan said; “The ARCH approach enables us to shift from a reactive episodic healthcare model to a more proactive model that connects stakeholders across the spectrum – from the home to the acute care setting – throughout the lifespan and puts the patient at the centre of the process. In doing so, a Connected Health approach has the potential to empower patients, clinicians and healthcare planners alike by means of delivery of pertinent information at appropriate intervention points in the care pathway.” Speaking at the launch Gearóid Mooney, Research & Innovation Manager, Enterprise Ireland, said: “Market-focused technology centres such as ARCH are an effective model for ensuring that the application of State-funded research in Ireland is closely coupled to industry needs. Experience to date has established that it can deliver real results for the companies, the research community and ultimately accomplish the state’s objective of investing in the commercialisation of research in sectors of strategic and economic importance to Ireland.”