Healthcare Technology Featured Article

February 13, 2012

Northern Ireland Health Minister Meets with Health Officials to Improve Irish Health

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Edwin Poots has been traveling around the world and in talks with other countries to see how to help Northern Ireland residents get access to new high technology health care and, at the same time, promote “the business openings which come with it,” according to a recent story.

Poots was recently in Finland for the Northern Ireland and Massachusetts Connection (NIMAC) conference on Connected Health.

“While we are all here to share our knowledge, expertise and experience, I came to learn,” Poots told the conference. “I want to learn how we, in Northern Ireland, can use technology to improve quality of service for our patients.

While in Helsinki, Poots participated in meetings with Finnish, Catalonian and US representatives to discuss best practices in health and social care and “measures for developing closer links and sharing expertise in fields such as research and development,” according to the story. He added that he, along with other health officials, was looking for ways to get access to “key European funding, through the European Innovation Partnerships program, which is available for high technology healthcare.”

"Northern Ireland can influence European policy,” Poots said in the story. “Our size is an asset in the testing of new innovations. It allows us to be a leader in the field by sharing our experiences."

According to the story, Poots told the conference of senior figures from government, business and health in Europe and the USA “that Connected Health and the technology that it produces, are central to the aims of “Transforming Your Care,” the recently published review of Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. “Transforming Your Care” contains proposals on how improvements in the primary and community care settings can be made to health and social care services so that they are structured around the needs of patients.

Poots said in the story that he wanted “to see people treated as close to home when appropriate. It is better for them and it is better for our healthcare system. So whatever technology we use to achieve this, the more we can enable and empower people to manage their own conditions, the more we can keep them nearer to their loved ones at home and the more we can avoid unnecessary and inappropriate hospital stays.”

In 2009, more than 2,300 people died from coronary artery disease, more than any other disease, according to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), and in 2006 it cost the National Health Service $3.2 billion pounds. Coronary artery disease is greater in Northern Ireland than in Britain, according to BHF.

The country, like most, is looking for ways to bring down the costs of treatment through prevention, and technology, Poots said.

Poots told the conference that his country knew healthcare needed to go through some changes. “We identified a number of reasons for change including the need to prevent ill-health; the desire to provide better patient-centered care; the requirement to manage increased demand across the system; and the necessity to support our workforce in delivering change,” he said in the story. “I believe Connected Health will contribute to the solution in all these areas by providing the necessary tools – it can be cutting edge innovation or simply finding a new use for everyday technology.”

Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is an award-winning health and technology writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines and IBM in her 20-year career. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin

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