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FutureMed Festival Limerick Explores Technology in Healthcare

FutureMed Festival Hackathon
Organisers of the FutureMed Festival in Limerick were Dr Conor Keogh, Dr Sam Gray and Dr Salim Sebaoui, all Academic NCHDs at UHL

Range of expert speakers in artificial intelligence, informatics, data science and more

Teams of clinicians, designers and engineers collaborate in healthcare ‘hackathon’

ACUTE hospitals have “an enormous opportunity and an enormous responsibility to take advantage” of the multiple disruptive technologies now emerging with the potential to transform healthcare.

That is according to Prof Martin Curley, Director of the Digital Academy and Open Innovation with the HSE, who was opening the FutureMed Fest at University Hospital Limerick. Organised by NCHDs Dr Sam Gray, Dr Conor Keogh and Dr Salim Sebaoui, FutureMed Festival is a multi-day, multi-disciplinary event that aims to raise awareness of the possibilities of digital technologies and how they can be used to solve real clinical problems.

Prof Curley said that: “whereas in the past, we may have had just one disruptive technology, say the internal combustion engine, showing up to drive a wave of change; we now have multiple disruptive technologies showing up. We have cloud; we have mobile and social; we have the internet of things; we have big data and we have machine learning and artificial intelligence. Blockchain is coming and the next big things are genomics and robotics”.

While the course of history showed the rate of adoption of new technologies has been accelerating, Prof Curley said the electronic healthcare record (EHR) was an obvious example of where adoption of digital technology in the Irish health system should be moving faster. But he cited the introduction of the Da Vinci robotic surgery programme in UHL as a positive example of early adoption of emerging technology that was showing real benefits to the patient and the system alike in allowing for less invasive procedures and reduced length of stay.

Slaintecare provided a roadmap for driving innovation in the health services and using digital technology to improve health and wellbeing and shift care to less acute settings.

Big data, Prof Curley said, had huge potential to improve outcomes and drive efficiencies.

“We have a coming data avalanche. Data will be an enabler of health service improvement; it will drive advances in medical science; it will enable improved population health and wellbeing; and it will be an enabler of better clinical trials,” Prof Curley said.

Dr Grainne Courtney, Chief Clinical Information Officer, St James’ Hospital, updated festival attendees on Project Oak, the digitisation of all inpatient records at Ireland’s largest acute hospital, which went live in October 2018. Over the space of six weeks, 21,300 training hours were delivered to 2,550 staff in St James’ to enable Project Oak, which gets its name from the volume of paper saved by transferring to electronic records. Nurses, in particular, had embraced the changes as they were the healthcare professionals “drowning in paper more than any other”, said Dr Courtney.

First and foremost, Project Oak was “a safer, better care project rather than an IT project: releasing time-to-care by standardising processes; improving clinical decision-making and delivering better care to patients on a day-to-day basis”, Dr Courtney said.

In the area of medication management, for example, the EHR had allowed for safer prescribing, with checks in place around allergies and other risks. Not only were medication rounds safer for patients but more time efficient for staff administering drugs, with time savings of up to 69 minutes per ward on medication rounds on one acute medical ward”

“The project means records are available immediately to teams caring for a patient. It’s about having remote access; multiple user access; and everything in the one place,” Dr Courtney said. For healthcare professionals, the EHR meant more data was gathered for clinical decision-making and for research and for patients it meant shorter waits for diagnosis, treatment and care.

Other speakers at the FutureMed Fest included Dr Derek Greene, School of Computer Science, UCD; Brian McKeon, Group Director of Informatics, Planning and Performance, UL Hospitals Group; Dr Ronan O’Leary, Adenbrooke’s Hospital and University of Cambridge; Prof Cathal Walsh, HRB Lead Health Decision Science, UL and Prof Declan Lyons, UL Hospitals Group.

Following a series of workshops on AI, informatics, data science, robotics and other topics through the week, the FutureMed Fest culminated in a hackathon style event at the Engine, Cecil Street, Limerick on Saturday, May 11th. Problems identified by clinicians were selected and presented to collaborative teams of clinicians, designers and engineers under the guidance of senior mentors, and solutions rapidly developed and prototyped. Solutions were then pitched to the event judges.

The winning Paediatric Nutrition team, who devised a solution for challenges associated with neonatal dietetics, comprised Niamh Murphy, Senior Dietitian, UHL; Charlotte Boyd, Nurse and Midwife, Cork University Maternity Hospital; Dr Eimear Duff MD; and Jack Goulding, Biotechnology Student, NUI Galway.

The FutureMed Fest was organised to promote engagement among clinicians in the MidWest and around the country in areas of digital technology likely to be essential to the development of healthcare in the future, as identified in the recent Topol review in the NHS. The event encourages the development of cross-disciplinary collaboration and aims to raise awareness of the possibilities of digital technologies and how they can be used to solve real clinical problems. The FutureMed Fest was supported by UL Hospitals Group with funding from the HSE Spark Initiative. The “hackathon” event on Saturday was also supported by a number of industry sponsors.

Dr Conor Keogh, UHL, said: “New technologies are becoming increasingly important to medical practice. While there’s a lot of interest among clinicians regarding these technologies and the potential they offer, there is a relative lack of education and training in these areas. Further, there is a near total lack of venues for facilitating discussion and fostering collaboration between interested clinicians and those with the technical background needed to implement and develop new solutions using these technologies.

With the FutureMed Festival, we aim to create a forum for updating clinicians on new technologies in medicine and to start conversations around how these technologies can be leveraged to improve our daily practice. We hope that our cross-disciplinary events will provide a forum for clinical and technical staff to meet and start the conversations that will lead to innovative solutions to the problems we face in daily clinical work through the collaborative application of novel technologies.”

Brian McKeon, Group Director of Informatics, Planning and Performance, UL Hospitals Group, said:

"The UL Hospitals Group was delighted to support our NCHD colleagues with the FutureMed Festival.  Both the Chief Clinical Information Officer, Dr Naro Imcha, and I recognise the importance of clinical engagement in driving forward digital health to improve patient care.  Healthcare is on the edge of a digital revolution through robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and the energy and enthusiasm demonstrated by our colleagues in organising this event shows us the future is bright in UL Hospitals."