What is your professional background?
My name is Susan Treacy and I am CEO of the HealthTech Ireland Association.
I started out as a Biomedical Scientist and moved over 20 years ago into commercial roles followed then by management, technical, operational and business development roles for SMEs and global companies. In 2016, I established Treacy Healthcare Consulting supporting healthcare organisations on several requirements including creating and reaching their organisation’s strategic goals. I am excited now to be working with HealthTech Ireland and the members supporting our healthcare system in a very tangible way. In its 40th year and with the challenges facing healthcare systems, HealthTech Ireland’s collaborative and facilitative role is more important than ever.
In your current role, what are your day-to-day responsibilities?
Primarily, my responsibility is to represent what HealthTech Ireland members need and together with them, support the Irish healthcare system to meet patient needs. Every day is very different, for example we may be communicating important information for their products, such as the latest updates on regulation or sustainability and another could be in supporting members in challenges the industry may face in delivering products and services. We also collaborate and engage with the broader healthcare community to support initiatives and challenges such as helping them meet their strategic objectives, for example around healthcare transformation or sustainability.
What do you think will be the lasting impact from the pandemic on the healthtech industry?
The pandemic demonstrated what healthcare can achieve when we work together. It was a unique situation in healthcare where everyone across sector was laser focused on coming together to solve the problems and find a way through the pandemic for patients and society. It was unprecedented in collaboration and delivery of healthcare solutions rapidly and safely. Importantly, it demonstrated what is possible. There is now a resolve in the sector, which I hope will continue, to keep this momentum going and to work together on delivering innovative healthcare solutions, particularly around digital health.
Another important positive impact, particularly for society, is that the pandemic demonstrated that healthcare matters. We have seen what is possible in a few years and it is worth the investment both financially and in providing resource and capability to ensure we meet create the capability to meet unmet clinical needs across many diseases and illnesses.
Of course, a lasting impact in healthcare was also our engagement with technology in general. We all got to know about Zoom and Teams. There is an opportunity here in terms of our being exposed to digital solutions as a society and this will help support and empower patients as digital health grows.
What about the current surge in inflation – how is that impacting the sector?
I have just come from the European MedTech Forum and the discussion on inflation and supply chain challenges we are experiencing in Ireland is being seen across Europe and globally. In the past number of years, healthcare has moved from one crisis to another, and this is a more recent challenge. It is having a huge effect on healthcare and within industry and particularly impactful on SMEs. We want to ensure as little impact on our healthcare ecosystem as possible in terms of supply chain, competitiveness and delivery of service and products. Along with the other challenges collaboration, engagement and preparedness is a vital piece in reducing risks and addressing this challenge.
What do you think are the key challenges facing the industry?
There are several challenges facing the industry and healthcare, but it is important to stress there is a lot of opportunity, hope and work being done in addressing these challenges.
For organisations, given that we have gone from one crisis to another, we need to have the capability to be dynamic and agile. Organisations must be structured in a way that allows this. With the nature of work now changed, good leadership and management, with a clear organisational purpose and vision is vital. We need to ensure our employees have the capability and resources to be effective and remove obstacles to allow them to be agile. Importantly, because of the crisis that has happened and to be prepared, we must also create the capability in organisations to look farther ahead strategically. By having longer preparedness, we create a robustness and resilience in our healthcare system.
There has also been so much progress in the medical field and despite this we know there are still many unmet clinical needs for patients. This challenge is not easy to solve. We are moving to a more targeted approach for this. What is fundamental is working across the healthcare sector to provide the capability for all patients to access innovative solutions. This is a responsibility we all have in healthcare and one which industry, and our healthcare organisations are working on.
Globally, there are many challenges impacting the healthcare industry, such as cyber security, inflation, regulation, environmental and sustainability challenges. Sustainability is currently a large focus for healthcare organisations. It is through the creation of products and solutions, with dedicated teams working on these issues, that industry and healthcare organisations are demonstrating a resilience and determination to meet these challenges.
A vital challenge which is also actively being addressed both in Ireland and in Europe, is ensuring patients have access and can positively benefit from the innovation that is available to meet their needs. Effective regulation is a key part of this and something that is being worked on across the globe. More locally, in Ireland for this transformation and adoption to be realised, co-operation and effective discussion across the healthcare system is critical to success to enable us to move faster to realise the benefits. Understanding what stakeholders need, communication around what is required and working together through structures to deliver for our system is important because it is our healthcare system, and we all have a responsibility to support this.
What will be the leading trends in healthcare in the coming years and how will patients and providers need to adapt?
We are in the 4th Industrial revolution and while we have challenges, the opportunities and possibilities to have a more effective, value based, patient centric healthcare system far outweigh these. There are numerous trends that can revolutionise our healthcare system and move patients through the system with minimal impact, reducing wait lists, empowering patients and supporting an effective healthcare system.
Key trends include the continuation of telehealth which many of us now take for granted. Further application of artificial intelligence and predictive analytics will be a growing trend too. This will support clinicians given the challenges in chronic disease management and our aging population. These solutions provide clinicians with the capability to make decisions not only based on history but on the likelihood of what may happen and therefore support preventative measures for patients who might have long-term health problems. AI will also help manage the large amounts of data that we produce and standardise it, again supporting healthcare teams with burdening administrative tasks.
Another trend that is growing is the area of medical imaging and use of AI. Workloads in oncology are growing consistently year on year and there is a lack of resources in this space. Medical imaging and AI in radiology, oncology and pathology will ease this burden and allow the reading of large amounts of images speeding up turnaround times in diagnostics.
Using mobile health technology is another growing trend and will empower patients to have more control over their healthcare. People will be more responsible for their health and act on issues as they may arise again taking a more preventative, pro-active and beneficial approach to personalised health.
Perhaps the most important trend is in using innovation to remove barriers to healthcare for all and create health equity with patients at the heart of healthcare. With next generation innovation and data, it will be important to get the processes and regulation right to ensure all patients can benefit by connecting with these solutions for better health overall.
Susan Treacy is speaking at HealthTech Ireland’s 40th anniversary annual conference on May 25th in Croke Park. For full details and bookings visit www.healthtechirelandconference.com