Dr. Tanya Mulcahy, National Manager, Health Innovation Hub Ireland (HIHI)

Do this with your kids at the dinner table- ask them to identify one thing in life that they need, something that could be better if they had a way to do it, take note of their answers. At coffee, ask your work colleagues the same question, then at the weekend, ask your mum or dad the very same question. What you get in the end is a list of needs, if you look closely at those needs you can categorise them based on the group you’ve engaged with. My colleagues usually identify a work problem, my mum an issue at home and my kids, all boys, always want a way to get out of homework!

If you ask the question but focus it on health  the answers are always interesting- ‘If I knew I would develop diabetes, I’d change my diet’. ‘If I could see the condition of my heart, I might exercise more’. The point is that when we identify a need in our own lives, that need is very often real and when we know the need, a solution often follows.

This very same needs identification exists in our healthcare system. Our healthcare staff are dedicated to their patients, they deliver frontline services under significant constraints and I know when we ask them that very same question, there is always a need to do something differently.

In my work at Health Innovation Hub Ireland, we use this  understanding of needs to help stimulate a pipeline of new healthcare solutions, we ask  our healthcare staff more than just ‘identify your need’, we push that little bit further and ask, have you any idea how that need can be addressed? I am always amazed that once a need has been identified, a solution very often follows.

Since 2016 we have  worked with over 160 healthcare staff who have identified a need and followed up with a potential solution. Some of these solutions are small incremental changes, our role is to convert those ideas into real products or processes so that 160 small innovations can have a big impact on our healthcare. We also work with companies, to provide access to the healthcare system, to pilot their product and assess its ability to address a healthcare need. To date we have managed more than 265 company engagements, 166 of these have resulted in follow-up support and 60 of these have developed into active projects within the Irish healthcare system.

If you are a an innovative company addressing healthcare problems, or have an idea that you know will have an impact, contact us and we’ll help you progress. Keep an eye out next week for our new HIHI Call, we’ll be seeking solutions to a very big global healthcare NEED.

Technology and innovation can integrate with current healthcare supports to ensure that in the future when we ask our children, our friends or our family, ‘if you could change one thing about your health..” the answer will be about staying healthy and not about managing their preventable illness.