Letter to The Irish Times from Richard Corbridge, August 22nd 2016

Sir, – John Murphy’s letter (August 17th) about his experience of the lamentable state of technology in the Irish healthcare system, and which he felt impacted and provided gaps in his care, resonated with me and my team.

The HSE, through a programme of work called eHealth Ireland, has been working to put in place foundations of technology to address the issues described by Mr Murphy.

One of the strategic programmes for eHealth Ireland is the creation of an Individual Health Identifier (IHI) for every person who uses the healthcare system.

In recent weeks, the infrastructure has been completed, and has been populated with 2,775,629 records from a trusted data source.

These records constitute the creation of an IHI national register in line with the Health Identifiers Act 2014. This solution will allow for a standard patient identifier across the health system, as suggested by Mr Murphy.

The number is now available and will start to appear in all systems over the next two years, thus allowing a patient to be identified throughout digital solutions within health.

This will ensure that records held on solutions in different parts of the system can be linked up by a care professional with a legitimate reason to do so and this can then be audited by the patient.

Mr Murphy also perhaps unknowingly described what is known as an electronic health record (EHR) in his letter. Ireland is the last country in the developed world to create an EHR for its healthcare system.

The HSE has taken significant steps in 2016 delivering a business case to the Department of Health that describes what an EHR for Ireland could look like. The HSE has learned lessons from other countries by not creating a single big database but by linking the systems deployed around the country and allowing information to flow through the different systems to the person delivering care.

The first truly electronic health system will be the maternity hospitals of Ireland beginning in the Cork Maternity Hospital in autumn of this year.

The HSE plans between now and 2020 to ensure that, wherever realistic, the Irish healthcare system can, and will, adopt digital solutions to improve it. – Yours, etc,

RICHARD CORBRIDGE,

Chief Information Officer,

HSE Chief Officer,

eHealth Ireland,

Dr Steevens’ Hospital,

Dublin 8.

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