The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has published a new report outlining four policy areas needed to drive improvement in the collection, use, and sharing of health and social care information in Ireland.

The paper sets out how progress is needed across four key areas to ensure a rights-based approach underpins health information and eHealth developments, including:

  • A national health information engagement strategy should be developed to outline a coordinated and ongoing engagement approach with the public and with health and social care professionals on health information.
  • There needs to be a solid legislative framework in place to enable change, progress and developments in health information.
  • Appropriate national governance structures should be established to oversee and lead on the changing health information landscape, including the establishment of a national strategic entity for health information.
  • Improved infrastructure to support the collection, use and sharing of data is needed, including a citizen health portal, which must be underpinned by best practice technical, security and data quality standards.

HIQA’s Director of Health Information and Standards, Rachel Flynn, said: “Currently in Ireland, health information systems, policies and strategies are under-developed. Health and social care professionals cannot easily access patients’ health information where and when they need it, which can lead to repeated tests and delays in care.

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Ms Flynn has stated that Ireland needs to develop a shared infrastructure and common approach for the collection, use and sharing of health information across the health and social care service.

She explained: “The Irish public have told us that they want access to their health information. In Ireland there is no system to provide citizens with access to their electronic records. The European Parliament recently set a target that 100% of European Union citizens will have access to their electronic records by 2030.

“Bringing Ireland’s infrastructure in line with other European countries will improve the quality of health information, reduce costs, allow citizens to be more involved in their own care and ensure care is more coordinated and efficient.

“Urgent action is needed now to progress our health information system under the four key policy areas of effective engagement; legislative framework; governance structures; and technical and operational requirements.

“Progress is required across all four areas to promote a modern, future-focused and data-rich environment for health and social care in Ireland. Each of these four areas are interdependent, meaning failure to address one area could impede or stall progress in the other areas.

The key considerations have been informed by public feedback through a national public engagement project and a public consultation, targeted engagement with a broad range of national and international stakeholders, as well as a review of international evidence.

The report has been submitted to the Minister of Health for his consideration.

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