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Enabling Ireland to become a recognised global hub for digital health

Ireland’s global medtech hub is over 100 years in the making, spanning 450 firms including nine of the world’s top 10

Ireland’s premier event for the medtech industry opens in Galway this morning. Medtech Rising attracts more than 500 leaders from across the industry each year and today’s event will explore innovation, global economic outlook, sustainability, fostering talent, generative AI, the future of EU regulations, and more. The conference will be followed by the prestigious Irish Medtech Awards dinner.

“Bringing senior business leaders together with key opinion leaders, and policymakers is vital to ensure that the industry here has the foresight needed to achieve its ambition of transforming lives with innovative patient-centred medtech,” says Eoghan Ó Faoláin director of the Irish Medtech Association, the Ibec business association representing the medical technology sector.

Ireland’s global medtech hub is over 100 years in the making, he adds. “It spans 450 companies including nine of the world’s top 10. These businesses are making a local impact with 48,000 people employed across the country and have a global reach with exports of €13 billion. Our vision is for Ireland will be strongly positioned as a global leader in innovative patient-centred medical technology solutions, helping to set the future global healthcare agenda, with a strong ecosystem that is a big contributor to the economy. That’s why events like Medtech Rising are so important for bringing the Irish medtech community together to set a course for sustainable growth.”

Sustainability is a pressing issue for the industry with the global healthcare sector being the fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases worldwide, he notes. “The medtech community is committed to saving and improving lives, that is why sustainability in both the health system and a company level is vital. The latest Ibec Manufacturing Report revealed that nine out of 10 companies agree that sustainability is a priority for their business, and agreement levels increase with company size. Additionally, 85 per cent are introducing initiatives in the next one or two years that will lessen their environmental impact and address customer expectations.”


For businesses struggling to find a starting point on their sustainability journey, Ibec has launched Climate Action: A toolkit for business in collaboration with Accenture, to provide practical guidance on how to develop an enduring climate action strategy.

According to Ó Faoláin, there are two main ways to improve sustainability in the industry; how medtech is developed, and how it is deployed. Digital health has a key role to play in both.

Irish Medtech Association board member and S3 Connected Health chief executive John O’Brien describes digital health as “the intersection of healthcare and technology. The goal is to translate the benefits that technology has brought to other industries and bring them to healthcare.”

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According to O’Brien, not only can it improve patient access and empowerment with more personalised care and remote monitoring, but digital health can also offer environmentally responsible ways of delivering care with the carbon footprint of telemedicine being far lower than traditional healthcare due to reduced transport emissions among other factors.

Ibec’s Digital Health Working Group is working to enable Ireland to become a recognised global hub for digital health, where companies can develop and commercialise products, as well as attract new projects and investments.

“One area where we see huge potential is AI,” says Ó Faoláin. “It can create an environment where human specialisation is enhanced by new technologies to deliver a new era of healthcare. It can facilitate clinical radiology workflow by image acquisition. The reduction in radiation during image acquisition can have significant benefits for patients. AI also increases the success rate of medical interventions, as robot-assisted surgery can contribute to an increase of up to 52 per cent operation success rates. And robot assistance can benefit medical staff by taking care of repetitive tasks. Robots could handle around 30 per cent of clinical nurse tasks that do not involve direct patient interaction.”

He points to data produced by Medtech Europe about the transformative potential of AI. “It’s estimated that AI could save 400,000 lives yearly, account for €200 billion in annual savings, and free up to 1.8 billion working hours every year, the equivalent of having half a million additional full-time healthcare professionals.”

In this context, he believes there is a need for the new EU AI Act to take its use in medicine into account. “As it will determine how and if new AI-enabled medical technologies will be put on the market and reach patients it’s essential that this risk-based legislation is aligned with sectoral legislation such as the EU Medical Device and IVD Regulation.”

Looking ahead, he says events like Medtech Rising aim to drive cross-sectoral engagement and increase awareness of Ireland as a place where digital health thrives. “For that we need to ensure we have the right business policies and conditions to grow the digital health sector here,” he concludes.