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Technology Vital In Future Healthcare


Director of Knowledge & Technology Transfer in the Faculty of Computing and Engineering, Jonathan Wallace, (front row, second right) alongside international speakers at the ‘open+health’ conference in Belfast.
 
Computer technology will have an increasingly important role to play in healthcare services as Northern Ireland and the world’s population rises and ages over the next 20 years,  it was claimed today. 

University of Ulster’s Director of Knowledge & Technology Transfer in the Faculty of Computing and Engineering, Jonathan Wallace was commenting after he chaired the ‘open+health’ conference which attracted representatives from Northern Ireland, Britain, Ireland, Europe and North America.

Mr Wallace explained: “The conference brought together key stakeholders in connected health from the health trusts, academia, industry and government to share their knowledge and experience of using open and connected technologies to improve service delivery and health and well-being.

“Participants were also invited to take part in a summit workshop which provided an opportunity for decision-makers to address key questions on the future strategy of open and connected health delivery and its evolution across a regional, national, European and global context, and move the discussion towards specific recommendations and actions." 

Mr Wallace noted the population of Northern Ireland was projected to rise from 1.710 million in 2004 to 1.825 million by 2024. 

He observed: “As already identified by the Department of Health, over the next 20 years both demographic and social trends will bring into sharp focus the need for services which capable of meeting the needs of the increased amounts of people who will be living alone. Those services will also have to cater for higher levels of social deprivation, the implications of sustaining rurality. There will also be higher levels of disability as people live with chronic illness.  

“The significant increased incidence of chronic diseases and conditions presents a huge challenge globally. 

“Therefore, given the fact that we will have an ageing population across the world and the significant rising cost of managing chronic disease and given the fact that we will also be faced with a finite resources to provide that care, the development of cost-effective, open and connected health product and service solutions to meet users’ needs will be core to maintaining and improving upon, not only the quality of healthcare provided and the quality of life for the people of Northern Ireland, but in other nations in Europe, the US and globally.” 

The conference and summit workshop took place in the Spires Centre and Europa Hotel in Belfast and at the University’s Jordanstown campus earlier this month. It is the second of the biennial ‘OpenIsland’ all-island conferences organised by ‘open-n.i’. and ‘OpenIreland’.

These are two multi-agency organisations with a shared mission, “to strategically promote awareness, understanding, development and uptake of free and open source software across both the private and public sectors, as well as enhancing the competitiveness of the indigenous software sector by exploiting the opportunities offered by Open Source business models”. 

During the conference the official launch took place of the British Computer Society’s (BCS) Health Northern Ireland which is the new regional forum of BCS Health in the UK.  

This multi-professional group aims to promote the development and use of Health Informatics & Connected Health in Northern Ireland to support effective, evidence based, efficient health and social care in areas of research, education, practice, and management decision making.

This is intended to benefit the health of individuals, communities, and populations that receive health and social care services and the staff and organisations that deliver health and related services. 

The conference was strategically supported through Higher Education Further Education Connected funding from the Department of Employment and Learning as well as through BCS Health in the UK.