The Irish Government is investing €5m in the Applied Research for Connected Health (ARCH) Technology Centre to transform how healthcare services are delivered in the country.
ARCH is hosted at University College Dublin (UCD), where researchers from clinical, engineering, technology, policy and economic fields — with input from University of Limerick (UL) and almost all higher education institutes in the country with connected health research capabilities — will collaborate.
Connected Health is the utilisation of “connecting” technologies – broadband, wireless, mobile phone, fixed phone lines – and medical devices and treatments for healthcare applications.
It is also potentially very much an ‘internet of things’ affair in terms of the use of technologies like sensors, alarm systems, vital sign-monitoring devices, health informatics and data management systems.
“Healthcare is a key sector that we have targeted as part of our Action Plan for Jobs, and we have put in place a range of measures, including the establishment of a national healthcare innovation hub to support more Irish companies to establish and grow jobs,” the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton said.
“The technology centre we are launching today will be another crucial support for job-creation in this area. By investing €5 million, and above all by bringing together industry and researchers to work on common problems, we can develop cutting-edge technologies and accelerate job creation right across the country.”
A daunting challenge
The efforts of the ARCH at UCD along with UL and various higher education institutes will follow an agenda set by its industry steering group.
Professor Brian Caulfield of the UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population Science, who will be directing ARCH, explained: “Every country in the world is facing infinite demand for healthcare services from finite resources, spiralling costs caused by the invention of new drugs, medical equipment and procedures, higher patient expectations and an ageing population (by 2051, close to 40pc of the EU’s population will be older than 65). Combined with shortages of health professionals, the scale of the challenge is daunting.
“However, advances in technology, such as those being developed through ARCH, are enabling a shift towards personalised healthcare and information-based health services, which will improve patient experiences and reduce the cost of delivering healthcare.”
During the initial research phase, the team at ARCH under the direction of UCD’s Professor Brian Caulfield, UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population Science, focused on caring for patients with dementia. The ARCH model will now be applied to a broader range of clinical conditions as determined by industry and healthcare needs such as diabetes and heart disease.
ARCH is headquartered at NexusUCD, the Industry Partnership Centre at UCD, and there are currently 15 industry partners steering the ARCH research programme, including: ADA Security Systems, Boston Scientific, Hermitage Medical Clinic, ICON, OpenHealth, Novartis, Philips, Relate Care, Resmed, S3 Group, Swiftqueue, Theya Lingerie, Two Ten Health, Vitalograph and Vu2Vu; all are actively involved in the connected health sector.
Digital health image via Shutterstock