Doreen McKeown, Enterprise Ireland Senior Vice-President, Life Sciences, Boston.
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 takes place on September 18-19 in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland, and will include 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, this event is an unprecedented chance to learn firsthand about the challenge facing 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.
The discussions 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 60 percent of US adults already live with at least one chronic condition; 42 percent have more than one, and as baby boomers age, 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 $3.3 trillion 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.
One way to achieve improvement it is to transition to a value-based healthcare system focusing on outcomes rather than on the volume of care delivered. This can be facilitated by digitization 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. Digitization can facilitate the emergence of hospitals as virtual hubs too, from where care can be monitored remotely, and increasingly managed by patients at home.
Ireland’s thriving medtech sector solves global healthcare challenges
Ireland already has a strong track record in the field. Waterford-based RelateCare is a healthcare communications consultancy and outsourcing organization that is fast becoming a global leader in the delivery of patient access and patient engagement solutions.
RelateCare provides technical expertise in healthcare contact center operations, as well as clinical expertise in the design and implementation of telehealth and clinical programmes.
In 2017, to complement its Irish operations RelateCare opened its first Patient Coordination Centre in Cleveland in the US, offering a range of patient scheduling services, nurse-led clinical support teams, and remote best practice support services. Cleveland was a natural location for its first US patient coordination center since the company traces its roots to a joint venture with Cleveland Clinic Innovations.
“Since we first started working in the US in 2009, we have been able to optimize patient access and patient experience for some of the most recognized and successful health systems, while simultaneously lowering costs,” said Conor O’Byrne, CEO of RelateCare.
When working with one of the US’s leading healthcare providers, in the Midwest, RelateCare’s expertise in access to care reduced the rate of abandoned calls by 28%, increased scheduling accuracy to over 98%, and increased physician visits by over 12%
Expanding partnerships between Irish medtech and US healthcare
A partnership between the Visiting Nurses Association Health Group in New Jersey and RelateCare “began with a successful post-discharge call-back program that made our patients feel supported and cared for at a vulnerable time as they managed their health from home,” said Steven Landers, MD, MPH, president and CEO of the VNA Health Group.
Based on the success of that project, the partnership continued to expand. “RelateCare’s telephonic interventions and patient communications have been pivotal in the growth of our patient experience initiatives. We share a vision for what proper home health should look like, and that is invaluable,” he said.
Such bottom-line results have been replicated by RelateCare at other health systems across the US, including prestigious names such as Lahey Health, Texas Children’s Health, Duke Health and Stanford Children’s Health.
Award-winning Dublin-based innovator Meditec Medical designs, manufactures and delivers cutting-edge technology in the area of pressure relief mattresses and therapeutic patient support surfaces. It is currently working with Boston Children’s Hospital to manufacture and supply pressure relief mattresses across its entire hospital network, including ongoing technical support.
Kerry-based medtech company Salaso Health Solutions, which provides digital solutions for physical rehabilitation, is partnering with New York’s Northwell Health to provide online care management services to a range of patients, including stroke, multiple sclerosis, and COPD patients.
Northwell is New York State’s largest health care provider with 22 hospitals, over 550 outpatient facilities, and nearly 15,000 affiliated physicians. It cares for more than two million people annually.
“We’ve received great feedback from patients, extended family members, and care coordinators,” said Souhel Najjar, MD, senior vice president and executive director of Northwell’s Neurology Service Line, and chair and professor of neurology at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.
Salaso’s software helps remedy the fact that typically just 20% to 30% of patients complete their prescribed exercise programmes, impacting not just outcomes but hospital costs, particularly as health insurers shift from fee for service reimbursement to reimbursement by the outcome.
New York-based Northwell is also partnering with Tipperary biotech company Technopath Clinical Diagnostics, a global leader in the development and manufacture of quality control products and informatics solutions that enhance the accuracy of laboratory testing.
Technopath products are used by leading clinical laboratories in over 120 countries. It is regarded as a leader in the in-vitro diagnostic industry, developing a first-of-its-kind consolidated immunochemistry testing product. Consolidation enables clinical laboratories to significantly reduce handling requirements, reclaim storage and minimize waste, leading to a more efficient quality control process and cost savings.
The two healthcare entities have come together as Technopath Northwell Health North America LLC, selling and marketing Technopath’s quality control products and informatics platform across the US, as well as utilizing them at Northwell Health Laboratories.
“What brings the North American Healthcare Summit to Ireland is our highly collaborative Medtech ecosystem, which includes government funding, academic support, and world-class research centers.” said Doreen McKeown, Enterprise Ireland’s senior VP Life Sciences, based in Boston.
Ireland is home to 17 of the world’s top 25 healthcare companies, a vibrant indigenous industry, world-class research centers and more than 450 medtech companies employing 30,000 people. For healthcare systems focused on the delivery of value-based care, it’s a first port of call.
Ireland possesses world-class capabilities in research with intensive collaboration between companies, research institutions, and clinicians. This makes Ireland a perfect platform for the industry to start, innovate and continue to scale as one of the five global emerging hubs for the Medtech sector.
“Ireland is an acknowledged global medtech hub,” said McKeown. “Leading US and Canadian healthcare systems see companies supported by Enterprise Ireland [the national export agency] as potential partners for solving healthcare challenges, helping them deliver better care to patients, drive greater efficiencies and reduce costs.”
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.