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Delivering eHealth

Estonia digital prescriptions eolas examines the State’s priorities on eHealth and the next steps for delivering its strategy.

Ireland’s eHealth strategy was launched in December 2013 and considers how patient data can be used to integrate care services. It accompanies the EU’s eHealth Action Plan, which covers 2012-2020 and followed on from the high level eHealth conference held last year as part of the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

A new public body – eHealth Ireland – will be established and will initially focus on ePrescribing, online referrals and scheduling, telehealth and the development of summary patient records.

Ireland spent only 0.85 per cent of its healthcare budget on ICT compared to a 2-3 per cent norm in other EU member states. If properly implemented, the Government expects eHealth to focus more on the patient’s needs, help to deliver more reform and efficiency, and also drive economic growth.

ePrescribing was launched in Estonia in 2010 (see above) after five years of preparation. The digital recording of prescription information makes it easier to analyse whether patients are taking (or misusing) their medication, and how medicines affect the effectiveness of other medicines.

The main advantage of eHealth is that it can deliver high quality, accurate and timely information about patients to those providing healthcare. A properly executed strategy “must involve all stakeholders and feature strong clinical engagement and a willingness to embrace process re-organisation from the outset.”

While the economic benefits are less well understood, entrepreneurs and start-up companies will come forward with new products and Ireland is well-placed due to its existing strengths in the medical devices, ICT, pharma and financial services sectors.

eHealth Ireland is currently a unit of the Health Service Executive, located within its System Reform Group. Over time, it will emerge as a standalone entity, led by a Chief Information Officer and be responsible for governance, funding and legal enabling, public awareness, stakeholder engagement, project management, and encouraging local and regional innovation and collaborations.

The organisation will be advised by an eHealth forum, bringing together the main departments involved, academia, the industry, the private health sector, insurers, the voluntary sector and patients’ groups.

Successful implementation depends on a number of factors, primarily the willingness to reorganise and redesign work practices. Effective and authoritative leadership is also required, including the use of “clinical champions” while all staff involved in rolling out the strategy need appropriate training in healthcare informatics.

A Chief Information Officer for the Health Service, Richard Corbridge, will take up his post in December with a view to setting up eHealth Ireland within HSE. No formal launch date for the organisation has yet been announced but the infrastructure to assign health identifiers is to be put in place next year. This will implement the Health Identifier Act 2014 and a new Health Information Bill is also expected in 2015.

Potential priorities

• National health identifiers

• ePrescribing

• Online referrals and scheduling

• Telehealthcare

• Patient summary records

• Online access to information

• National patient portal

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