Calls for better access to personal health information
A citizen health portal should be created to enable the public to access and control their health and social care information, according to a new report from the Health Information and Quality Authority,
The Collection, Use and Sharing of Health Information Report Needs Major Changes to Improve Information Sharing, Quality of Care and Transparency About How Health Information is used.
HIQA said this would require legislation, technical and operational requirements, and oversight.
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Rachel Flynn, director of health information at HIQA, said healthcare staff cannot easily access patient health information where and when they need it, which can lead to repeated testing and delays in cares.
Ms Flynn told RTÉ’s News at One that Ireland would find it “very difficult” to ensure health information is available electronically across the healthcare system.
“We don’t have a national electronic system. We don’t have a national portal,” Flynn explained.
She added that the majority of health and social care systems in Ireland are collected using paper-based systems, saying there are some electronic systems but they are not interconnected.
“It makes the delivery of care extremely complex and there are certainly efficiencies to be gained by having these national systems and national infrastructure,” Ms Flynn said, adding that Ireland lags significantly behind some other countries. Europeans in this respect.
“If we compare ourselves to other European countries, they would be much further along on this journey,” Ms Flynn added.
“Denmark started this work over 30 years ago, making its systems electronic and using a standards-based approach.”
Social Democrat health spokesman Roisín Shortall said Ireland was far behind other countries in implementing a unique individual health identifier.
She said the 2017 Sláintecare Reforms report called for an e-health portal for patients to access their medical records and other developments.
The HSE said it agrees such a system is needed and should be a central part of a modern health service.
He said he started a project to provide a system for sharing health information between healthcare providers and directly with the patient.
“As HIQA has pointed out, this will require legislation and will take time to procure, develop and implement,” the HSE added.
The European Parliament has set itself the target of 100% of EU citizens having access to their electronic records by 2030.
According to HIQA, 86% of people want to consult their own medical records online.
Additionally, 94% of people said it was important for health information to be used to improve the quality of care and 94% also wanted to be informed about possible future uses of their health information.
HIQA said a national health information strategy is needed to improve data quality and security.
The HIQA report gives an example of the case of a patient called ‘Mary’.
She has a number of health issues, which means she is seen by many different specialists and also takes many different medications, which often confuses her.
If his consultant changes treatment for one of his conditions, it may impact the treatment of some of his other conditions, which the report says can be a real balancing act.
Mary was on vacation in the west of Ireland and ended up in hospital. They didn’t have access to her records, so she had to try to remember her medical history, which is complex and her memory isn’t the best.
The hospital staff had to do a whole series of tests and scans and she stayed in the hospital for days.
Mary said if only the hospital had access to her health records, she might not have needed all the additional tests.
She said she would also like easy access to her own records, as it would help her better manage her own care.