Digital Health Update

Digital Health Update, April 2020

We find ourselves operating in a completely different and challenging environment over the past couple of months since the Covid-19 pandemic touched our shores. Remote working is now the norm for many of us and it raises interesting discussions around how much of our industry business can be conducted digitally going forward.

Our industry is experiencing a “new dawn” with the traditional barriers to digital adoption coming down swiftly in response to unmet needs presented by the Corona virus pandemic. This, of course, brings the opportunity to accelerate digital health adoption to help our frontline healthcare workers provide much needed care safely, and also to minimise the infection risk to our patients both at home and in hospitals and care homes. We at IMSTA have been working hard on capturing these opportunities and supporting collaboration amongst our members, as you will have seen from some of our communications recently.

A key example is the opportunity to use electronic prescriptions. The ability to electronically prescribe, transfer and dispense prescriptions in Ireland has long been advocated for and an area I have been involved in for over a decade since working with the regulator. The major roadblock to this happening was legislation that all prescriptions must contain a handwritten signature from the prescriber. Just two weeks ago, the Minister for Health signed new regulations to remove this barrier and open the door, finally, for ePrescribing, which is amazing news, helping many stay safe at home.

Many of our members are rapidly responding to the crisis with new or existing solutions and providing these at a reduced cost to the system. We have endeavoured to facilitate open channels for these solutions to reach key decision makers and to promote the extraordinary response by our industry to the national call to action to help tackle Covid-19. Some of our member’s innovations are outlined below and please contact me if you would like to know more or if you wish to share solutions or updates on how your organisation is helping. Examples include:

Telehealth has seen a huge increase in deployment and the HSE has contracted IMSTA members Wellola and Nua Solutions to provide their products for this. Robotic Process Automation has been implemented in the Mater hospital to automate infection control admin reporting which currently takes up about 3 hours of an infection control nurses shift. This solution will now be deployed across to other hospitals by UiPath, also an IMSTA member company.

Change Healthcare have rapidly deployed diagnostic workstations to Radiologists homes to support working from home on the National Integrated Medical Imaging System (NIMIS). 

During this crisis, business as usual in healthcare is difficult to maintain, with many elective or non-urgent procedures and appointments cancelled. Many thousands of appointments have to be rescheduled when this crisis abates. There is an opportunity to restructure our outpatient processes more efficiently and for a better patient experience with increased use of telemedicine and community care as appropriate. IMSTA member Swiftqueue have partnered with UiPath to tackle the large outpatient appointment backlogs and issued a press release on that new partnership on April 22nd.

Vitro Software have launched Homecare, a solution that helps treat patients at home, avoiding hospital attendances and admissions and utilising Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs) to chart health and wellbeing over time.

Jinga Life have deployed clinical image sharing software to enable reporting on clinical images from remote locations and also faster access to radiology reports by referrers, eradicating the need to share images via CD and enabling remote working for at risk health workers. Both Jinga Life and Vitro Software are IMSTA members.

Our members at UCC Assert Medical Education have collaborated with industry to develop a healthcare worker Covid-19 early warning system know as CREW. This technology facilitates alerts to frontline workers when their temperature increases, enabling faster isolation in the effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

These innovations are in addition to exceptional efforts by our diagnostic and medical device members to ensure our health service were able to access to PPE, ventilators and other equipment, testing equipment and reagents etc. etc.

These are just some examples of the incredible response by our industry to the current health crisis we all face and I am working on gathering as many as possible, so please do share. IMSTA will publish on this “digital dawn” later in the year.

Politically, if the proposed programme for government by FF and FG is adopted, they aspire to cut deployment time for our health strategy Sláintecare from 10 years to just 5 years. This will require significant digital intervention and improvement of our infrastructure, bringing more opportunity than ever. After all of this there should be the political will to invest strategically in our health system during and post Covid-19, which is welcome news. IMSTA will continue to engage with political leadership to facilitate market access for our members.

IMSTA Business Breakfast Briefings

On March 25th we hosted an expert presentation by Dr. Paul Davis, DCU Business School on digital procurement challenges in Ireland, particular to the health sector. Navigating the often difficult public procurement process in Ireland was explored, together with a view of procurement frameworks throughout Europe and how to leverage those. Ogie Sheehy, Founder and CEO of ViClarity also presented on their real-world journey through Irish healthcare procurement which shone a light into this complex area and the challenges faced each step of the way. This briefing, our third of 2020, had a record attendance of 74 industry members and was very well received. Slides for both excellent presentations given are available here.

Our next briefing, hopefully in May, date TBC, will by the Estonian Government! They will discuss how they have built a digital society and will show us how. Named ‘the most advanced digital society in the world’ by Wired, they will give an on-line presentation not only on Estonian digital society but also have the head of innovation at the North Estonia Medical Centre, a top health care provider in Estonia, talk about their digital health service.

See for more information.

While we have had to postpone our IMSTA conference, “The Keys to Unlocking Digital Health in Ireland”, we will continue to resource experts for our briefings on key topics of benefit to our members. We hope to welcome you to our conference in September or October, dependent on restrictions in place at that time.

Digital Health Leadership Forum

Our Digital Health Leadership Forum met online on March 12th and as part of our forum work, we will soon publish an IMSTA position paper on Interoperability in healthcare. This paper broadly aligns with European advice and recommendations from EU member organisations and standards bodies and promotes cross organisational and regional health information sharing in a safe and secure way, with the citizen at the centre. Recommendations in this paper are a call to action to major stakeholders to advance an interoperable digital health ecosystem across Ireland and Europe.

The Forum has also produced a draft Digital Health Stakeholder map, highlighting the key stakeholders across Ireland who are key to advancing digital health adoption in Ireland. This map is available here and comments and feedback are very much welcome.

Finally, we have prepared a Digital Health Communications strategy in partnership with The Communications Clinic experts, Terry Prone and Ger Kenny. This strategy will promote the benefits of digital health to our citizens and stakeholders, shining a light on the extraordinary achievements of our members and the importance of maintaining momentum going forward.

Clare Harney

Executive Director, Digital Health Transformation