The Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly TD, published the eHealth Strategy for Ireland, the Health Identifiers Bill 2013 and announced the recruitment of a Chief Information Officer for the health services.
“The eHealth Strategy will put Ireland in a position to fully exploit all of the many benefits which today’s information and communication technology has to offer in modernising the way we treat patients and particularly in providing care in the most appropriate setting and at the most appropriate level within the health services” said Minister Reilly. “From my perspective, the eHealth strategy could not have come at a better time because eHealth is a key enabler of change, the type of radical reform that we have put in train for our health services. I am also pleased by the proposals for cooperation with Northern Ireland in this area”.
The Health Identifiers Bill 2013, published today, provides the legal basis for Individual Health Identifiers for health service users and unique identifiers for health service providers. The identifiers will be used across the health service, both public and private.
First and foremost, Individual Health Identifiers are about patient safety and ensuring that the right information is associated with the right individual at the point of care. Individual Health Identifiers will also help in managing our health service more efficiently and will be a building block for health reform initiatives outlined in Future Health, including Money Follows the Patient.
A dedicated branded entity called ‘eHealth Ireland’ will be established, initially in the HSE. It will be headed by a Chief Information Officer for the health service who will be recruited through an open competition. Priority areas for initial development include ePrescribing, online referrals and scheduling, Telehealth (particularly relating to the management of chronic disease) and the development of summary patient records.
The Individual Health Identifier provided for in the Health Identifiers Bill will be essential to all of these developments and a programme for its rollout will be prepared as a matter of priority in tandem with the passage of the Bill through the Oireachtas.
eHealth Ecosystems will be a key mechanism for delivering on the eHealth strategy. These will involve partnerships between health service providers, academia, industry and patients. Such eHealth Ecosystems have been established in a number of EU countries and are amenable to cross border cooperation. The Irish Presidency Declaration at the EU eHealth Conference held in Dublin in May 2013 committed member states to developing eHealth Ecosystems.
Concluding the Minister said “I firmly believe that Ireland’s extensive IT and healthcare industry sectors make us very well placed to exploit eHealth, not just to radically improve our own health services, but as an emerging area within the wider ICT industry which will have a significant part to play in achieving this Government’s targets for jobs and economic growth.”
A copy of the eHealth Strategy for Ireland is available at www.dohc.ie/publications/eHealth_Strategy_2013.html