Digital Health is in our Blood

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The last time I got blood work done it took only 9 minutes.

Five of them were spent in the blood clinic. The other four online, booking an appointment using SwiftQueue, a Dublin-based booking engine. A lot of what’s keeping us healthy these days in Ireland is delivered using Digital Health technologies and services. Even better, many of our Digital Health companies are homegrown, giving us another robust and exciting tech sector to be proud of.

“The way health is going, with the population ageing and the prevalence of chronic diseases, we have to acknowledge there simply aren’t enough people out there to support all those patients. This is where technology comes in,” says Ken Cahill, the CEO of Dublin-based SilverCloud Health.

A Journey of Empowerment
SwiftQueue was created back in 2011 by Brendan Casey and Declan Donohoe to improve the inefficiencies that existed around basic tests like blood work. It’s now the default appointment booking technology in Dublin’s six largest hospitals. SwiftQueue has over €1m worth of projects in the pipeline and is targeting a turnover of €5m by 2018. Their product is as much a convenience for me, as it is a viable business for them.

Jim Joyce’s company HealthBeacon, a digital health platform connecting devices and data, was created when Joyce had an epiphany about the cost of collecting needles, syringes, and other “sharps” that people use to administer medications at home.

“We realised we were looking at the wrong thing, so we reversed the equation,” Joyce says. Instead of trying to cut those costs, they enhanced the functionality of the containers used to discard the sharps. They built-in reminders for the patient to take their medication – IoT functionality that could then transmit behaviour patterns back to medical professionals who could intervene between appointments if necessary. Joyce knew that an empowered and healthier patient costs a lot less to the healthcare system. Soon after his epiphany, he filed for a patent.

Similar examples of empowerment and improved communication between doctor and patient abound. Full Health, founded by Dr Ann Shortt and Paul McCarthy, is another. It aims to simplify the health report to “plain English,” so that patients can understand it and make preventative choices and stay healthier. It started off as an idea in the Accident and Emergency ward where Dr Shortt worked. She was convinced that many of the cases she saw could be prevented. It was just a matter of better patient education.

Avril Copeland, the founder of TickerFit, had a similar conviction. She created a platform that enables doctors to provide personalised daily lifestyle interventions for each patient, based on their current health status. Through Tickerfit the patient could easily follow them.

The empowerment goes beyond the doctor-patient relationship, though. WebDoctor allows patients to renew prescriptions online, while Medxnote connects practitioners with colleagues and provides faster, safer and more secure care for patients.


Deep Tech
While perhaps the best-known examples of Digital Health improve communication and empower the various stakeholders, others go deeper into areas like mental health. Dublin-based Pip, made by Galvanic, is a tiny device, which measures electrodermal activity in the fingertips caused by sweat, a clear indicator of stress. It visualises the stress levels and prompts people to play virtual games to relax. The team behind it took an existing idea developed at MIT’s MediaLab Europe back in 2005 and applied it to mobile technology.

Another example, SilverCloud Health, is a result of a seven-year research project, which brought clinicians, technologists and entrepreneurs together to formulate a digital solution around the management of anxieties. According to the company, their medically sturdy and user-friendly solution delivers different forms of content creating resilience in the same way that talking to a therapist does.

Other examples of deep tech here in Ireland include Beats Medical which helps people with Parkinson’s walk normally again; Nuritas, which discovers new disease-beating functional ingredients in food; Restored Hearing which aids people with tinnitus; Cortechs which improves attention through brainwave metrics and gaming; and Metabolomic Diagnostics which provides predictive diagnosis of Preeclampsia in the early stages of pregnancy. It’s a list of great companies any ecosystem would be proud to promote.

The Ecosystem
None of this would be possible of course without the supportive ecosystem that exists for Digital Health in Dublin. It starts with the willingness of clinicians to help. “Medical professionals are open to trying solutions that can make their jobs better,” Avril Copeland from TickerFit says. She spent months interviewing them before a single line of code was written.

The support from the medical world is backed by the ubiquitous support of the business world and governmental agencies such as Enterprise Ireland (EI), and they can offer important access to international decision maker networks too. “We have been exposed to senior executives at major companies thanks to EI,” Ken Cahill says.

The international exposure brings not only valuable connections but also global praise. Irish companies SilverCloud Health, SwiftQueue, Galvanic, Lincor and Medxnote, were all ranked in The Journal of mHealth Global Digital Health 100 Award List for 2015.

To get the full list of innovative Digital Health companies born and raised in Dublin, and across Ireland, check out TechIreland.org. Meantime, here’s just a couple more notable examples – HealthXL, MuteButton, PharmaPod, WhatClinic, 3D4Medical, Oncomark, and Ayda.

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