Technology can empower the patient and power the economy

Dec 06, 2011

Northern Ireland must employ ground-breaking technology and innovation to give more patients with chronic illnesses the freedom to manage their condition at home.

This innovation can, in turn, help to boost the local economy and create jobs by attracting inward investment in technology and life sciences.

That was the central message from Health Minister, Edwin Poots and Economy Minister, Arlene Foster as they both made statements to the Assembly on Connected Health.

And, in a unique move, the two ministers today signed a Memorandum of Understanding which will place innovations and new technology as a driving force behind better care of patients and boosting Northern Ireland’s economy.

The Health Minister said: “Connected Health is quite a simple concept – by using companies with innovative technologies and products, we enable more patients to manage their condition at home which means fewer visits to hospital and provides opportunities for local companies to reap the rewards.

“By using technology in the right way, we enable patients and carers to monitor their condition at home, which leads to earlier intervention and reduce admissions to hospital. This is at the very heart of where our health service needs to go – we need to be more flexible, put the patient at the centre and ensure more people have the chance to stay at home with their families.”

Economy Minister Arlene Foster said: “My department, along with Invest Northern Ireland, has been working closely with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to deliver economic and health benefits through collaboration. We have been looking at the potential of Connected Health with a particular focus on dealing with chronic disease management.

“This is an area of significance to healthcare and private sector organisations worldwide, given the spiralling costs of managing chronic disease, the poor outcomes and the significant investment being made by the private sector to address the issue.”

The Connected Health programme can for example, allow patients to monitor their condition with the supervision of their own health care team. Patients with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart conditions could for example, input their readings into an online database which can then be assessed by their own health care worker. Should there be any concern with readings, patients will be contacted and a course of treatment can begin. This early intervention can reduce the number of people needing to be admitted into hospital.

The Ministers also launched a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of Health and Invest NI.

Minister Poots said: “The purpose of the MOU is for my Department to work with Invest NI to support clinical research and development in Northern Ireland. In doing this, we not only benefit from advances in R&D, we also make Northern Ireland a more attractive investment option for outside investors.

“Northern Ireland is actually quite unique in that we are large enough to provide a good research base, but we are small enough to be flexible, nimble and business-friendly.

Minister Foster said: “It is proposed that through the collaborative approach set out in this Memorandum, we will deliver key health and social care benefits. In addition, through effective international collaboration and by stimulating investment in this area, we will also make an important contribution to the economy of Northern Ireland.”

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