Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

On Call with... Robert Kelly, Class of 1992

01 December 2017

"We need physicians to be more collegial, more communicative and more team-based."

Robert Kelly Q&A with ROBERT KELLY, Class of 1992, a Consultant Cardiologist at Beacon Hospital, Bon Secours, Dublin and Whitfield Clinic, Waterford, and founder of digital healthcare start-up companies.

I am an interventional cardiologist, but spend most of my time seeing patients and practicing preventative cardiology. I also spend time at two start-up companies I co-founded.

After I graduated from RCSI in 1992 and following a two-year interventional cardiology Fellowship at the University of North Carolina, I was appointed to position of Assistant Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at UNC, Chapel Hill. In 2007, I returned to Ireland to build a cardiology department at the Beacon Hospital.

I work in several areas of digital/connected healthcare and innovation. I advise telemedicine and innovation companies. I have founded several businesses including Connected Diagnostics (an online platform for reading ECG for GPs) and RK Cardiology Healthy Living to help patients prevent chronic disease by managing weight and wellness. All of these business interests have evolved from listening to patients in my practice and understanding their unmet needs.

I am interested in the potential of digital technology to improve healthcare. Technology innovation is rapidly evolving but pace of change in healthcare is much slower. In truth we would do well adopting earlier technology solutions to solve some of our complex problems rather than relying on more expensive versions of current technologies. I observe that there still remains a big gap in mutual understanding between healthcare providers and digital technology companies but there is also a huge opportunity to improve healthcare for everyone, especially patients by narrowing this gap.

I completed an MBA at Henley UK in 2013. Many of the greatest challenges in healthcare now are business problems - team management, budgets, medical inflation, compliance, developing technology and innovation. For me, the MBA was about my personal development: I am a cardiologist first and foremost but I wanted to acquire new skills to help evolve my role as a cardiologist and at that time Head of Cardiology. An MBA teaches you to appreciate multiple stakeholders in every situation. It also taught me the value of creative thinking, innovation and problem solving as well as value of strong networking. Having a good network can really help create, explore, develop businesses in healthcare and I suppose one of the biggest networks that comes to mind are RCSI graduates around the world.

My wife, Lorna, deserves all credit for helping me get to work by 8am, getting three kids out the door to school in Dublin traffic. I have clinics on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and Tuesdays are mainly devoted to invasive procedures, angioplasties, and stenting. On Thursday I make time to work on my other businesses.

Stress is a big factor among healthcare professionals. Doctors suffer from work overload and, are always under sustained pressure over time, building to physical and mental illness. The health system allows no time or mechanism to engage more meaningfully with colleagues, which is professionally demoralising. I believe a more professional and collaborative model that encourages collegiality and burden sharing amongst all medical and surgical colleagues - as in the US - would be beneficial.

I have cut my working hours (a little!). I want to have more time for socialising, golf, exercise, for reading and reflective thinking to get away from stressful daily work. I'm equally conscious that as a cardiologist, you cannot sit in front of a patient and look like you disregard healthy living principles. As I also front a healthcare business (RK Cardiology Healthy Living), I am additionally motivated to look well. I engaged a nutritionist to help me lose weight and eat better. I now go to the gym, walk the dog and run a bit. I suppose I do my best to "walk the walk".

 Class of 1992 Reunion

Class Reunion in 2017

Through RCSI, I was invited to mentor undergraduates in innovation workshops. I think it is so positive to take a problem, and try to solve it innovatively by thinking differently. I believe this learning has opportunity for a more creative and innovative approach to applied medical education: A new breed of RCSI medical/innovative and entrepreneurial graduates transforming healthcare (even more) around the world.

My interests in innovation make me think if we opened more conversations across all the RCSI student graduates, it could be extremely valuable in so many medical and entrepreneurial ways. If there is any interest in that I would be delighted to coordinate that with the College.

The College has always been innovative and creative. Healthcare is a global business and there are RCSI alumni working in every healthcare system worldwide. It's a powerful network. I have been fortunate in most things in life, not least in my choice of RCSI. But, among the happy times there is also the most important memory that marked my time there. I was in my final year and the sudden death occurred of my brother, Daniel, a 4th year medical student. He was captain of the rugby team, well known and loved by many. I remember that day more clearly than anything else and won't forget that even after 26 years.

I have enjoyed a wonderful career as a doctor; I have worked in great countries around the world and met amazing colleagues and patients. I still want to enjoy my career and to find opportunities that help more patients and create many innovative solutions to transform the future of healthcare.

Thank you Dr Kelly.

'On Call' is our new alumni interview series in which alumni supply the answers to our searching questions. If you have any comments, feedback, or would like to be put in contact with Dr Kelly please email