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Ulster Physicist Heads Connected Health Drive

A University of Ulster research director has taken the helm at an international initiative that links technology and healthcare to improve patient treatment and ease pressure on scarce resources.

Professor James McLaughlin has been elected new chairman of the European Connected Health Campus (ECHCampus), a not for profit company with its headquarters in Belfast.

‘Connected Health’ is a rapidly evolving research and development sector spanning specialisms such as healthcare, medical devices, engineering technology, academia and industry.

Professor McLaughlin said: “ECHCampus was founded last year by a team of independent business leaders who saw the need for a continuum of innovation in this extraordinary field, and I am honoured that the Board has elected me chairman.”

The officially registered ‘community interest company’ numbers commercial global giants Bosch, Intel and CA Technologies and the province’s two universities, among its founders and active participants. Operating surpluses are reinvested and public sector funding inputs are protected.

Connected health blends technology and medical care in procedures that provide “remote” delivery of healthcare. This enables people to self-manage aspects of care, which reduces growing demand on health services due in part to an ageing population that is living longer.

People are now being empowered to operate self-monitoring devices in their own homes rather than in a GP surgery or hospital, while others have chronic conditions or lifestyle conditions that can be treated via ‘telehealth’ programs.

The ECHCampus Board includes representatives of commercial, academic and healthcare stakeholders.

Professor McLaughlin, who has been a Board member since the launch of ECHCampus, is a research physicist and teaching professor in the School of Engineering at Jordanstown. He is Director of the School’s Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials Institute and the Nanotechnology and Integrated Bioengineering Centre (NIBEC) at Jordanstown.

He explained: “Connect health is a fast expanding sector that includes a wide range of healthcare related activities, including telehealth, telecare, eHealth, mHealth, eCare, remote patient monitoring, patient records, medical device production, information and communication technology, health procurement, nursing care, homecare services or software development for the healthcare arena.”

He added: “The primary mission of ECHCampus is to deliver leadership for the development of connected health markets and practice across Europe,” Professor McLaughlin said.

“In pursuing that, we are focusing on the need to transform healthcare delivery – which will enhance quality and effectiveness of care-- and the need to develop the ‘Connected Health Economy’, and so enable innovation and sustainable investment in the expansion of healthcare.

The Board said in a statement: “We welcome Professor McLaughlin into his new position and are confident that under his strong stewardship he will drive the strategy of the ECHCampus and progress our ambitious agenda.”

ENDS