University of Galway project brings virtual healthcare to Clare Island

19 Sep 2022

The Home Health project team. Image: University of Galway

The Home Health project will investigate ways to enhance digital health infrastructure to improve patient care.

Researchers at the University of Galway have launched a digital health project to improve chronic disease management on Clare Island.

The Home Health project will combine video consultations with remote physiological monitoring to deliver virtual care to the island off the coast of Mayo, which has 165 residents.

University of Galway researchers at the Health Innovation via Engineering (HIVE) laboratory will use state-of-the-art medical device tech such as remote sensors and AI software in a bid to improve patient care management in the island community.

The research team noted that there has been an increase in chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension as people live longer, which requires new approaches to delivering care efficiently.

The €1m project is being co-funded by Cisco Ireland and Cúram, the Science Foundation Ireland medical devices research centre.

“I am very excited with the Home Health project and anticipate that improving virtual care will augment the current services and improve overall care for the patients here,” said Clare Island GP Dr Noreen Curtis.

The project aims to make Clare Island a beacon for the delivery of digital healthcare and is investigating multiple ways to improve patient care.

It will look into a dynamic appointments system, where patients are scheduled for review based on clinical need rather than traditional calendar appointments. The project will also evaluate novel health promotion interventions, drone delivery of medications and robotic triage simulation.

“Digital health is the future of medicine and data empowers the patient and allows them and their clinicians to make better medical decisions,” said Prof Derek O’Keeffe, principal investigator on the project and Cúram-funded investigator.

O’Keeffe describes himself as a physicianeer – with a background in both medicine and engineering. He recently spoke to about how healthcare can be improved by embracing new tech.

To overcome the digital divide, a central part of the Home Health project is the development of a new, private 5G network on the island to enable better data monitoring.

Cisco Ireland’s head of innovation and industry solutions, Brian Jordan, said there is a “transformative opportunity” to map digital technology to the “entire patient care continuum”.

“Bridging the capabilities of AI, connectivity, the world of IoT-enabled medical devices and cybersecurity will enable this,” Jordan said.

The Home Health project has multiple stakeholders including the island community, the HSE and the Western Development Commission.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic