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Ronan Glynn

HHIT Series Top Takeaway Thoughts

Dr Glynn initially trained as a physiotherapist in UCD before switching to medicine and completing a PhD in surgical oncology. While working as a specialist registrar in ENT he “took a step back” as he saw “a need for clinicians to get more involved in system change and population health”. This led him to then pursue a career in public health, culminating in his work at the Department of Health. He joined EY in September 2022 where his work focuses on “the concept of an ecosystem health system”, built on partnerships and collaboration powered though digital technologies, and which reflects the changing landscape of health systems globally in recent years. 

Three key challenges

His role at EY allows Dr Glynn to engage with colleagues from around the world to identify common challenges faced by health systems. In Ireland and globally, he feels that “three key areas” need to be addressed. The first is the impact of an ageing population on the healthcare system.

“Our Irish population aged over 65 has increased by 35% in the last decade alone and there will continue to be significant pressure on our healthcare system to manage chronic disease and multi-morbidity, with a consequent need to promote prevention and early intervention and address inequities in access to and outcomes from healthcare provision.”

Workforce planning and automation will be crucial in addressing these healthcare demands.

“Where is the health workforce coming from to support those initiatives, and will that drive us towards automation and new ways of providing care, augmenting current capacities and enabling clinicians to focus on elements of their work which ensure best outcomes for patients while simultaneously providing greater work satisfaction for healthcare professionals?”

Another challenge is mitigating climate change.

“The health sector is responsible for about twice the emissions of the aviation sector. If the health sector globally were a country, it would be the world's fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases.” 

Understanding and addressing these challenges will be critical in shaping future healthcare systems both in Ireland and internationally.

“ The age of AI is here, it has hit us and it is going to transform healthcare and every other sector. ”

Tipping point

The COVID-19 pandemic fast-tracked the adoption of new technologies in the field of public health. 

“When we look back at this period in ten or fifteen years’ time, we will likely see that the pandemic was the tipping point for an acceleration into the next great wave of public health advancement. That will be driven by new technologies, virtual digital technologies, artificial intelligence, robotics and digital therapeutics.”

The traditional model of care is being transformed as new digital-first models of care emerge.

“The age of AI is here, it has hit us and it is going to transform healthcare and every other sector.”

“Of course, there are significant risks with these technologies and we really do have to think about those quite carefully. But overall I think you have to be optimistic about their potential to overcome some of the significant challenges we're facing in the sector.”

The promise of data

There is optimism around the use of data in the aftermath of the pandemic. 

“There's a realisation at a global level that we can't continue to plan and try to change the way we deliver health without better information; we need to use the enormous amounts of data that we have differently.” 

In the next “three to five years” Dr Glynn expects to see new technologies enabling the breakdown of traditional silos, promoting interoperability and the free flow of data across different datasets. 

He is excited at the potential of accessing and using secondary data from wearables, sensors and other technologies to inform and improve the approach to population health.

Virtual medicine

Another lesson from the pandemic is that access to scheduled and unscheduled care is a fundamental problem in healthcare systems globally. 

There is “no simple, out-of-the-box solution” because what works in one jurisdiction may not work in another.

Technology, including in diagnostics and virtual care, is expected to play a significant role helping people to access healthcare.

“We're seeing a massive investment in virtual care in the UK. They plan to have somewhere between 50 and 100 virtual care beds per 100,000 people by the end of this year. That would equate to about 2,000 virtual beds here in Ireland.”

This is a promising development that should improve access to care in the near future. 

More than anything else we need to make sure we have a workforce that's adequately trained and digitally literate so that when the next pandemic hits, we are ready. ”

Future pandemics

Dr Glynn believes that there will “certainly” be another pandemic in our lifetimes, one that will likely also originate in the animal kingdom.

He argues that “many of the elements that predispose a population to being particularly badly hit by a pandemic lie outside the health system.”

Pandemic preparedness requires addressing factors such as health equity, digital literacy and misinformation. 

Managing the spread of misinformation by building health literacy, ensuring public understanding and maintaining solidarity is as “important as managing the virus itself”. 

While we must have hospitals that are fit for purpose, “more than anything else we need to make sure we have a workforce that's adequately trained and digitally literate so that when the next pandemic hits, we are ready.”

Research, evidence synthesis and knowledge translation are vital for promoting health and preparedness for future pandemics.


Dr Glynn believes we “sometimes talk down our health system too much”. In 2000, Ireland ranked sixteenth in terms of life expectancy in the EU; in 2022 we were ranked number one. Despite the sector’s challenges, it is a “hopeful and exciting time” for technology in healthcare.

“You can book a holiday online, you can date online, you can do your shopping online; the rise of the citizen-led system will come to impact health systems globally sooner rather than later. Ultimately individuals and citizens will be the drivers of change.”