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Ireland unveils eHealth strategy

Will recruit chief information officer to run new eHealth entity
eHealth

Six months after hosting the European Commission's eHealth Week, the Irish government has published its plans for the area.

Its new eHealth strategy will prioritise e-prescribing, online referrals and scheduling, telehealth - particularly for the management of chronic diseases, and the development of summary patient records.

The government will recruit a chief information officer for the health services and the post will head up eHealth Ireland, a new body set up to spearhead the strategy that will initially fall under the auspices of the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly said: “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.”

Central to the government's eHealth strategy will to the Health Identifiers Bill 2013, published earlier this week and which 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 in both the public and private settings and will ensure the “right information is associated with the right individual at the point of care”.

They will also be essential to the government's plans to prioritise eHealth areas such as e-prescribing and summary patient records.

Subject to the Bill's passage into law, a National Individual Health Identifier Register will be set up to keep track of the Identifier and other identifying particulars relating to the individual, though it will not hold any clinical information.

Earlier this year at the 11th annual eHealth Week, held in Dublin, the European Commission highlighted the “huge potential” of eHealth to help Europe cope with its ageing population, the burden of chronic diseases and austerity health budgets.

The latter has hit Ireland particularly hard, with a report last year showing the country's healthcare spending has fallen further than any other European country.

Commenting on the eHealth strategy, Dr Reilly 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.”

• Read: the eHealth Strategy for Ireland

17th December 2013

From: Healthcare

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