Is the future of our health in safe hands with tech?

16 Nov 2022

Image: © Feodora/

In the latest episode of For Tech’s Sake, hosts Jenny Darmody and Elaine Burke ponder the unintended consequences that may come with the evolution of health-tech.

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Technologists are racing to fix all of our ills – even our inevitable death! While that specific technology is perhaps a long way away, there are plenty of incredible innovations being developed right now changing patients’ lives, many of which are coming out of Ireland.

Nua Surgical, just one of many medtech start-ups in Galway, has developed a device to make C-sections safer. Another start-up in Dublin called CroíValve has developed a non-invasive device to help fix the tricuspid valve in our hearts.

There’s a lot of innovative health-tech research going on in Ireland too. The National Centre for Sensor Research, for example, works on things like technology for implantable sensors, cell-based detection using luminescent probes and the 3D printing of new biomimetic materials.

But in the rush to embed technology into healthcare, are we thinking about all the consequences that may come with it?

Is our health data really safe? Can medical devices be hacked? And how accessible will health-tech be in the future?

That’s exactly what Elaine Burke and Jenny Darmody wanted to find out when they spoke to Ita Richardson, professor of software quality in the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems at the University of Limerick, and co-principal investigator at software engineering research centre Lero.

Richardson spoke on episode four of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The Headstuff Podcast Network.

She said one of the most important things the healthcare sector needs to do, particularly in light of the major HSE ransomware incident in 2021, is bring the right software, hardware and cybersecurity people in to solve these challenges.

“There has to be some knowledge in the healthcare world that not doing that is dangerous. Not bringing in the right expertise is dangerous,” she said.

She added that there is a danger of making the assumption that just because someone can develop a system, that must mean they can address all security and privacy concerns. “They’re just opening up floodgates for themselves.”

Richardson also spoke about the regulations that are in place around medical devices and apps. “I can’t sit here and say just because something is regulated, it’s perfect. And something that’s not regulated may be perfect,” she said.

“But if you can’t show that it has passed the regulation, then there is a big danger that it is much less than perfect.”

Listen in to episode four of For Tech’s Sake to learn more.

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