Belfast Telegraph

Come and experiment on us, US healthcare firms told

By David Young

Major US and European healthcare firms will this week be urged to use Northern Ireland as a test bed for technological innovations.

Stormont Health Minister Edwin Poots will tell a Boston conference that the province's healthcare model is ideally suited for testing and developing.

The minister said the arrangement would be mutually beneficial as local patients would gain from the latest technologies.

The four-day lobbying visit to the US is part of the minister's drive to reform services, with an emphasis on care closer to home and away from a hospital setting.

Technology is key to the changes proposed in the minister's Transforming Your Care blueprint.

Health trusts in Northern Ireland have adopted new telemonitoring technology that allows patients to take medical readings at home and automatically send information via telephone directly to a healthcare provider.

Mr Poots is scheduled to address delegates from both sides of the Atlantic at the EU/US eHealth Marketplace event in Boston.

He is also due to co-host a lunch for delegates at the Massachusetts State House with Senate President Therese Murray.

The minister will then attend the Partners Connected Health Symposium in Boston alongside experts in health technology.

Mr Poots said: "Innovation in health care is vital to improving patient care and is at the centre of Transforming Your Care.

"This visit offers us an excellent opportunity to bring closer the day when everyone who needs to access high-tech care in their homes can do so."

Representatives of Invest NI, technology firms and Queen's and University of Ulster are to attend the eHealth Marketplace event.

Mr Poots said he was keen to demonstrate to leaders in health innovations how Northern Ireland is ideally placed to assist in development of new products.

"Northern Ireland offers a unique model," he said.

"It is a single integrated health and social care system. Therefore, it provides an ideal test-bed for any company to develop innovative initiatives and products."