Navigating the next horizon in healthcare Leave a comment

With the worst of the pandemic hopefully in the rear-view mirror, the health service must learn from a bruising experience and look to the future as it faces changing paradigms, perennial problems, and unprecedented challenges.

That’s the theme of the upcoming Future Health Summit 2022, a two-day conference for healthcare professionals and other key decision makers. The conference, which will take place at Dublin’s RDS on May 18th and 19th, will focus on “Navigating the next horizon”, debating and discussing new and evergreen problems such as access, capacity, quality, innovation and workforce issues within healthcare.

The 2020 Summit was cancelled as we began to learn about a disease called Covid-19 – a smaller iteration was held late last year – but the conference is now back to full capacity and will greet more than 500 delegates, as well as more than 50 speakers and 50 exhibitors.

We are looking at all the big issues that international health systems are grappling with

Now in its 19th year, the conference has been in the calendars of stakeholders in health for a long time, says Investnet chief executive David Neville – the conference’s organisers. With the 2022 event just weeks away, the packed agenda is almost finalised. A blend of Irish and international speakers will take to the stage over the two days, while delegates will travel from all over Ireland as well as abroad, he notes.

“We are becoming increasingly internationally-focused. It’s now an event grounded in Ireland but that brings in ideas and innovations and best practices from around the world.”

That’s because healthcare dilemmas are invariably universal, he says. “This year, following Covid, we are looking at all the big issues that international health systems are grappling with, like access, capacity, recruitment and retention, digital transformation and innovation. The last couple of years has focused everyone’s minds on the importance of having the most efficient and accessible health systems.

“For example, we will look at how access impacts people who work in the Irish health sector, but also how that relates to other health systems, as the same issues affect everyone all over the world. Recruitment and retention of staff is also a huge issue, as we seek to understand what can make Ireland more attractive than Canada or Australia or the UK.”

An impressive array of international speakers will share their experiences over the two days. Nursing homes were where Ireland saw Covid hit hardest, prompting a rethink on how our elderly are cared for.

Bringing her insights to the summit is Jennifer Hofmeijer, a former nurse, founder and chief executive of the Polder Residence complex for vulnerable elderly people in the Netherlands. The Polder Residence is now famous for its alternative approach to the care of elderly people with dementia and allowing them to age with dignity.

Supplied by Future Health Summit


And, as Ireland prepares to build on the digital innovations accelerated by the requirements of the pandemic and the subsequent vaccination programme, offering some sage advice will be William Smart, now global director of external relations with the Dedalus Group but a former chief information officer with the British National Health Service. He will be joined on the line-up by Prof George Crooks, chief executive of the Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre, Scotland’s national innovation centre for digital health and care.

The Covid experience ultimately accelerated many examples of innovation within the health service, particularly in the area of technology, Neville notes. “Changes happened overnight that typically took years to come to fruition. For example, we see people now happy to have online consultations with their GP and we saw GPs embrace that wholeheartedly. That would have been unthinkable before the pandemic. We now see efforts like remote monitoring with sensors also being fast tracked, so there are lots of good changes and innovations that will stick with us,” he says.

A highlight of the conference is always the Future Health Summit Innovation Award. Applications remain open but more than 50 entries have already been received from innovators in Ireland and also the US, the UK and Germany. A shortlist of eight entrants will be drawn up, who will then pitch their concepts to delegates at the Summit. “It’s always a great opportunity for people working within the system to see what kinds of ideas and innovations are coming down the tracks,” Neville says.

And while they say the real business happens on the golf course, ground-breaking initiatives in healthcare can often have their genesis at the coffee break. The summit will see representatives from primary care, the nursing home sector, acute hospitals, the medical device sector, and the pharmaceutical sector, as well as HSE and Department of Health officials, all mixing under one roof. 

The audience is a “broad church”, Neville says and the return to large in-person meetings and the power of personal networking is one that he welcomes, admitting online events have their limitations. “During lockdown we had Zoom, and that was very transactional. It’s the casual chats over a cup of coffee, that’s where collaborations are born. It’s hard to measure but we know that that’s a huge part of any conference.”


Indeed, unprecedented cooperation and collaboration was seen during the pandemic, not least between public and private sectors. Neville points out that for many years the summit was one of the only forums, “where you would have had people from the public and private healthcare sector sharing the same stage and sitting on the same panels and sharing their relative experiences. The event is unique in that it doesn’t distinguish between public and private healthcare – we want everyone to communicate and share best practice.” 

During the pandemic, we saw unprecedented levels of international cooperation and collaboration

Indeed, the summit provides delegates with a golden opportunity to cherry-pick examples of international best practice that could seamlessly integrate into our current health system. 

“During the pandemic, we saw unprecedented levels of international cooperation and collaboration.

Healthcare is not an industry where this typically happens, but Covid has changed that and hopefully that will continue,” Neville adds. “A lot of personal relationships were built among healthcare workers and decision makers, and there is probably a lot more trust now between all the various stakeholders which is not a bad thing.” 

Future Health Summit takes place at Dublin’s RDS on May 18th and 19th –


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