Technology and eHealth are an essential part of delivering integrated care as outlined in Sláintecare – yet the HSE trails behind other countries in its implementation, an Oireachtas Health Committee meeting heard recently.

Fran Thompson, Chief Information Officer for the HSE, told the Committee, “there’s a long road to go, and other countries are ahead of us.”

Thompson explained that the health service is being held back with inefficient, and often paper-based patient interactions. Patients’ outcomes are negatively impacted by retrograde systems managing their health data: paper-based systems are more likely to cause clinicians to make mistakes. They also stifle their ability to share a patient’s data with other healthcare professionals.

eHealth additionally makes it easier to track a patient’s health in real time, potentially saving them lengthy trips to a hospital, and easing the burden on hospitals themselves.

Thompson said, “eHealth solutions and accelerating the digitisation of our health service is a key enabler to the delivery of integrated care, and will support a culture of continuous improvement and innovation. It will allow for increased access, sharing, and analysis of information across the health service.”

Michael Redmond, the HSE’s Chief Operating Officer for eHealth, told the Committee that Ireland is behind on its targets due to the pandemic and the cyber-attack last year.

Redmond said, “during 2020 and 2021 most of our efforts were diverted from our eHealth plan. For both of those years we were knocked off course. We’ve delivered other innovative solutions that have been pathfinders for us in terms of test-and-trace and vaccinations, but nevertheless they weren’t on the start of year plan.”

The European Parliament has called for every patient in Europe to have access to an electronic health record by 2030.

Surveys conducted last year by HIQA show that eHealth is important to Irish patients. The organisation found 97 per cent of patients believe it is important for healthcare professionals to have access to their information.

A total of 86 per cent of those surveyed said they would like to have access to their own digital records via a national patient portal, as is available to patients in Denmark.

Source: Irish Medical Times