Innovating from the Frontline by Dr Saif Abed

Posted on 1st November

Blog post by Dr Saif Abed, Medical Director at Triangle Health and CCIO Member.

When I changed my career and decided to focus on eHealth many of my friends and colleagues became confused. In fact they were utterly bewildered. Who leaves a promising career as a doctor to work in IT? After all, this was a time when we were still relying on fax machines to share clinical information and pagers (or bleeps in my case) to communicate with each other. Paper was still in vogue and the only time we really spoke to the IT department was when we were enrolled to get our security cards or when our departmental printers stopped working.

I know what you’re thinking.

What archaic year was this?

It was only 2011.

That’s what I find astonishing. When I look at how clinicians and patients interact with healthcare systems today it feels worlds apart from my experience as a junior doctor. Innovation has created new models of care and often enhanced the patient experience. Smartphones, tablets and social media have revolutionised the way we access healthcare. A doctor on call can now access electronic health records and take clinical decisions using their smartphone no matter where they are. Delivering healthcare no longer means being confined within the four walls of the hospital. Patients can now do everything from booking appointments online to having video consultations.

Now other industries have been prolific in their adoption of new technologies and software solutions to enhance their services and healthcare is still playing catch-up. We have to consider where we came from though as we plan for the future. Remember, it took doctors nearly 20 years to accept the stethoscope as a diagnostic tool! In 2016, eHealth innovation has momentum behind it though and we have to make sure we use that to continue to deliver great solutions for clinical and patient communities. One way to do this is to build on something eHealth Ireland has already had success doing: engaging clinicians.

Today, Ireland has one of the world’s largest membership groups of clinicians that are passionate about eHealth. They’re often referred to as Clinical Information Officers (CIOs) and together form the Council of Clinical Information Officers. This is essential for a number of reasons but in my experience the most important, whether I’ve been working on ultra-specialised eHealth initiatives or major infrastructure projects, is that projects that have clinicians engaged from Day 1 achieve far better results than those that don’t. When it comes to developing and testing new innovations they succeed because they work on the frontline. Having a united clinical community supporting eHealth means that clinicians can be a source of innovation and an engaged test bed that can work with academics, entrepreneurs and patients to drive the eHealth revolution that’s advancing Irish healthcare. With all this in mind, the Innovation Showcase is a great opportunity for us all to come together from different backgrounds to ask questions, pose challenges and share innovations that will define healthcare in Ireland today and in the future.

Health Innovation Week 2016