Tuesday 18 December 2018

Irish medtech firms can diagnose US and Canadian health problems

The US alone spends $3.3trn a year on healthcare, or $10,000 per person
The US alone spends $3.3trn a year on healthcare, or $10,000 per person

SME advice: Doreen McKeown

This month, a delegation of top executives from hospitals and healthcare systems across the US and Canada are coming to Ireland to discuss their greatest challenges. The inaugural North American Healthcare Forum is the first such high-powered group to meet outside of North America for that purpose.

It includes executives from groups such as Northwell Health in New York, Adventist Health in Florida, Cleveland Clinic and Hamilton Health Sciences in Ontario. In all, visiting key decision makers are responsible for 30 million patients.

For Irish medtech companies, it is an unprecedented chance to learn about the challenges of these healthcare providers. But the group is not just here to talk; it is actively seeking solutions.

These professionals will outline the major clinical, operational and regulatory challenges affecting hospitals in the US and Canada, and their requirements for innovation and technology to address them.

They will focus on how North American healthcare groups respond to challenges by co-creating future solutions with medtech companies.

The challenge is immense. The Rand Corporation think tank estimates 60pc of US adults already live with at least one chronic condition; 42pc have more than one. As the baby boomer population ages, chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are set to rise.

There are also growing problems with obesity and, in the US, opioid addiction, all of which puts extra pressure on a healthcare sector coping with budgetary constraints.

The US alone spends $3.3trn a year on healthcare, or $10,000 per person. Healthcare costs are rising at a time when both government and health insurers are putting pressure on providers to reduce them, while at the same time improving outcomes.

As one delegate due to visit told Enterprise Ireland, they are operating in a "highly fragmented, bloated, inefficient, and poorly co-ordinated care delivery model that leads to waste and suboptimal outcomes for patients".

The scope for improvement is clear. One way to achieve it is to transition to a value-based healthcare system focusing on outcomes rather than on volume of care delivered.

That is facilitated by digitisation and the data-informed decision making it enables. The sector is actively seeking medtech partners to help develop the kind of innovations that have transformed other industries, from banking to shopping. Digitisation can facilitate the emergence of hospitals as virtual hubs too, from where care can be monitored remotely, and increasingly managed by patients at home.

The North American experience is not isolated. Globally, healthcare sectors struggle to cope with rising chronic diseases, as well as ageing populations and the increased healthcare needs - and shrinking tax revenues - that come with them.

But there are particular challenges facing North American healthcare providers, including a need to achieve competitive advantage in a market where patients are inclined to change hospitals to secure the level of service they demand.

What brings this delegation to Ireland is our highly collaborative medtech ecosystem, which includes government funding, academic support and world-class research centres.

Ireland is an acknowledged global medtech hub, home to 17 of the world's top 25 healthcare companies and world-class, highly innovative and dynamic indigenous medtech companies.

Not only are Irish companies well positioned to provide solutions, they are actively doing so through partnerships with groups such as Northwell Health in New York.

Whether it is Beats Medical's app for people with Parkinson's disease or new patient engagement tools from Oneview Healthcare, to better drug delivery methods from Aerogen, Irish medtechs are forging solutions that healthcare providers need. For the visiting delegation, Ireland is just what the doctor ordered.

  • The North American Healthcare Forum takes place on September 18 and 19. Doreen McKeown is Enterprise Ireland senior vice-president life sciences in Boston.

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