Thursday, 13 November 2014

Dublin Summit Examines How Technology Can Address Global Healthcare Challenges

International government, health, education and ICT experts attend health technology and education conference in Dublin Castle

As an international leader in primary care training for doctors, and a European hub for tech-sector giants, Ireland is well placed to develop innovative technologies to tackle the major global shortfall of healthcare workers, a conference in Dublin will hear today (13.11.14).

The GETHealth Summit – a two-day conference on global health education and technology, taking place today and tomorrow at Dublin Castle – has been organised by the John Hopkins Centre for Clinical Global Health Education(CCGHE), which is based in the USA, in partnership with iheed, an Irish social enterprise that specialises in digital training content for health workers. The event will focus on how the global shortfall of 7.2 million doctors, nurses and healthcare workers must be addressed if we are to overcome transnational health challenges such as the current Ebola crisis.

The conference was officially opened this morning by the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar TD. Speakers over the next two days will include international businessman Denis O’Brien; Dr. Marc Mitchell, Global Health Lecturer at Harvard School of Public Health; Alain Labrique, Founding Director of the John Hopkins University Global mHealth Initiative; Uju Ofomata-Aderemi, Programme Director at OneWorld UK; and Robert Bollinger, Professor of Infectious Diseases at John Hopkins University and Head of the Centre for Clinical Global Health Education.

Opening the GETHealth Summit this morning, the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar TD, said: “I’m delighted that Dublin is hosting the GETHealth Summit. Dublin is already home to most of the world’s top technology companies. Our medical personnel are top class, and we have a long track record in terms of overseas development aid. Technology can help improve healthcare across the world, from Dublin to Dakar. That’s why I think Ireland can be a world leader in healthcare technology.”

How Technology Can Assist Healthcare Workers

According to the conference organisers, at least 57 developing countries are facing a severe shortfall of doctors and nurses, with the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) figures stating one billion people currently have no access to healthcare workers.

Commenting today, Dr. Kunal Patel, Medical Director of iheed, said technology can be used to maximise knowledge and impact in countries where there are shortages of healthcare staff.

“In many developing countries, in particular, there are not enough healthcare workers on the ground and, often, they are operating in remote locations with little or no access to upskilling and training opportunities,” he said.

“Technology has a huge role to play in ensuring healthcare workers can keep informed and can continually enhance their skills. Through mobile technologies – including SMS messages, apps, video demonstrations and animations – we can ensure healthcare workers receive the most up-to-date information rapidly and in user-friendly formats.

“Already, in relation to the Ebola crisis, we have seen apps, animations and video tutorials being developed that demonstrate to healthcare workers the precautions they need to take in treating this disease. Similar materials have also been produced for members of the public. These technological aids can be developed and disseminated rapidly, and are relatively cost-efficient.

“Outside of crisis situations, technology also offers huge potential for ongoing training and professional development amongst healthcare workers. If you take the continent of Africa alone, for example, it has witnessed the fastest growth in mobile phone subscribers in the world, and is on track to hit one billion subscribers by 2015. As the penetration of mobile technologies continues to increase, this opens up new opportunities for healthcare workers – even in the most remote regions – to access up-to-date information and advice.

“The current Ebola crisis has so far claimed over 4,900 lives, and that figure is predicted to rise to over one million if the virus is not urgently contained. We know technology has a major role to play in addressing and resolving this crisis.”

Summit Details

The 2014 GETHealth Summit follows on from two events held in 2013: the GETHealth Summit, which took place at the United Nations in New York, and mHealthEd, held at the Mansion House in Dublin. The 2014 event combines both of these, bringing together leaders in government, health, education, digital and IT to discuss and develop ways to address the global health worker shortage, through the use of technology.

A number of those from African countries who were due to attend and speak at the conference have been unable to travel, due to the Ebola crisis, and will instead participate by video link-up.

The full conference programme is available at: