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HIQA urges future proofing health information

HIQA has called for the future proofing of health information legislation in a submission to the Department of Health’s public consultation on a new national health information policy.

In its submission, HIQA stressed the need for strong health information legislation to ensure a reliable, efficient and safe healthcare system in Ireland.

Rachel Flynn
Rachel Flynn

Rachel Flynn, HIQA’s Director of Health Information and Standards, said: “Safe, reliable healthcare depends on information that is accurate, relevant and accessible. Health information plays a fundamental role in improving patient safety as better information means better decisions and better, safer care.

“Since HIQA’s establishment ten years ago, it has identified a number of health information deficiencies, particularly in the context of our statutory healthcare investigations. For example, the 2013 report of the patient safety investigation into the death of Savita Halappanavar noted that there were significant inconsistencies in the recording and reporting of maternal sepsis. Furthermore, one of the eight recommendations made in the 2015 report into the safety of services in Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise, focused specifically on deficiencies in health information. HIQA’s report stressed the need for the timely sharing of health information in order to identify and manage risks to patient safety.

“It is clear that we need to move away from our paper-based system and avail of new technology to improve the quality and reliability of health data, and in doing so, improve our health and social care services. Ireland is one of the last developed countries to harness the technology currently available. Most countries are legislating for and investing in eHealth because they realise that it can significantly reduce clinical errors, improve patient safety and create efficiencies. Ireland needs to move in the same direction, and fast.

“Ireland needs to develop strong health information policies and legislation to advance the eHealth agenda and to support, for example, the introduction of electronic health records. Ireland’s health information landscape is currently highly fragmented and legislation is vital to ensure that valuable information is accessed, shared and governed appropriately and that an individual’s personal health information is protected.

“The development of a health information policy and legislation provides us with the opportunity to future proof our health and social care systems and effectively and safely handle the demographic and technological challenges ahead. Tailored health information legislation in other jurisdictions aims to balance an individual’s right to privacy in terms of their personal health information with the legitimate requirement of healthcare professionals to access and share this information in order to provide care.”