The Health Service Executive has said that its technology and eHealth systems need to be radically overhauled, in order to provide the type of solutions needed for a modern health service.
HSE Chief Information Officer Fran Thompson told the Oireachtas Committee on Health that the health service is being held back with inefficient, and often paper-based patient interactions, with a patient's presence required due to the lack of tools rather than the patient need.
Mr Thompson said the HSE needs eHealth platforms that allow information to be shared across care teams with patient and service user consent, regardless of location or setting.
He told the committee that the current system lacks access to timely, accurate and robust data, essential to informing decision making and that electronic health records will reduce medical errors and provide for a more efficient service.
Mr Thompson said that a key principle for electronic health records is that the data belongs to a patient and they own their data, and they must have access to their record, and must be able to view the data.
He said that in an ideal world, the patient contributes to the record with data they generate, for example home blood pressure monitors. Part of the original national Electronic Health Record proposal, which was not approved, was to deploy a patient/clinical portal.
He said that the HSE is in the process developing an updated business case for a national electronic record system and has been in discussions with the Department of Health to ensure the success of the business case approval.
Mr Thompson said that St James's Hospital in Dublin already has an electronic health record for all of its patients. Four maternity hospitals have electronic health records and the new children's hospital will be a completely paperless facility when it opens.
He also told the committee that GPs can now send e-prescriptions to pharmacies.
Mr Thompson said the HSE has a number of projects in place, including a national digitised medical radiology system and a system that electronically verifies the right blood is transfused to the right patient at the bedside.
He told deputies that since 2020, ICT investment has increased considerably, with a 100% growth in staffing with over 400 ICT professionals and 48% increase in capital expenditure.
But he warned that rectifying the historical underspend will take several years.
'Fake texts' not linked to cyber attack
The HSE has said that its electronic systems have recovered from the May 2021 cyber attack.
Mr Thompson said that last year there were 48,000 cyber alerts, some of which could be an attack, but all threats were stopped.
He told the committee that 1,200 cases were investigated and 200 were significant potential attacks.
Mr Thompson said there was no link between the 2021 cyber attack and people getting 'fake texts' from the HSE.
It will take five to seven years to introduce a national electronic patient record, Mr Thompson added.