Connected Health research at universities could be the driver for high tech economic growth in Northern Ireland, according to Stephen McComb, recently appointed Technology Leader for the NI Connected Health Innovation Centre (CHIC).
Based at the University of Ulster’s Nanotechnology and Integrated BioEngineering Centre (NIBEC) at Jordanstown and funded by INVEST NI, his role is to create industry led collaborations in the evolving area of connected health, supported by market focused research.
He explains that an aging population, coupled with changes in disease prevalence, have led to shifts in health care demands.
“Connected Health is the term used to describe healthcare delivery that uses technology to provide healthcare remotely and allow patients more freedom to lead their own lives. The aim is to optimise the use of healthcare resources and provide increased, flexible opportunities for patients to engage with clinicians and to better self-manage their care.”
Stephen says that connected health is a “win win” situation.
“The use of technology allows carers to gather and transmit vital statistics such as pulse or breathing. The information could then be supported by analysis where warning signs of declining health could be detected. This could allow people to live more independently in their own community with support and preventative care being provided when it is needed, freeing up hospital beds for other patients and making savings for the Health Service.”
He explains that CHIC aims to provide Northern Ireland with a world-class, industry led organisation and facility, within which high-quality R&D, networking, Intellectual Property (IP) generation and brokering can be conducted on connected health applications.
“The centre will showcase Northern Ireland skills and work alongside health providers, international companies and academia to provide growth and collaboration opportunities.”
He says the CHIC will be an ideal platform to showcase local talent and grow Northern Ireland’s commercial interests.
“We all recognise the need to think differently about the future health provision as we are living longer. By harnessing technology, research and clinical experience we have an opportunity to stop doing things that don’t add value for us, begin to take better care of our own health and provide the best solutions for care when we need it.
“A lot of good work is on-going with existing health care providers and the expectation is that those with transferable skills from other sectors such as mobile devices, analytics, advanced materials, IT and digital media can also contribute significantly. By addressing local issues which have global significance we expect to create jobs and a better future for the people of Northern Ireland.”
As CHIC’s Technology Leader, he will work alongside academia, business and political leaders to develop commercially relevant research in the area of connected health. Ulster’s Professor Jim McLaughlin and Professor Chris Nugent will provide experienced guidance to support the roles development.
Originally from Carrickfergus, County Antrim, Stephen now lives in Greenisland and is married with two young sons.He graduated from the University of Ulster with an MSc in Computing and Information Systems and a BA (Hons) in Business Studies.
Stephen McComb, Technology Leader for the NI Connected Health Innovation Centre (CHIC) with University of Ulster's Professor Chris Nugent (on left) and Professor Jim McLaughlin, Director of Ulster’s Nanotechnology and Integrated BioEngineering Centre (NIBEC).