A new Health Information Bill

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Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly has received Cabinet approval for the General Scheme of a Health Information Bill.

The Principles and Policies of the Health Information Bill were approved by Cabinet in April 2022, and the Department of Health said the  General Scheme had been developed in consultation with stakeholders, including members of the public. There had also been substantial consultation with the Data Protection Commission. That engagement will continue as the Bill is drafted.

“The purpose of the proposed Bill is to ensure that Ireland has a fit-for-purpose national health information system that enhances patient care and treatment and supports better planning and delivery of health services into the future. 

At its core, the Health Information Bill will help ensure timely and secure access to the health information that is needed to deliver improved care and treatment and for further use of health information in a range of important ways – health service management, policy and planning, and research and innovation.

“The provisions in the Bill have been designed in such a way as to: 

  • Support integrated patient care between home, community and hospital care.
  • Empower patients, including through enhanced access to their own health information. 
  • Promote access for patients to emerging treatments, medicines and technologies.
  • Increase efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of patient care.
  • Set out the legislative framework to support the development of digital health records.
  • Make health information available, subject to strict governance rules, for a range of key health service activities that will ensure a high performing and dynamic health service driven by information and innovation. 
  • Deliver better value for money in public spending on health services.
  • Put in place institutional and leadership structures to drive the required change.”

Minister Donnelly said, “Patients rightly expect their health information to be recorded, used and shared appropriately for their care and treatment and our healthcare staff need access to complete, valid and up-to-date health information to make decisions that are in the best clinical interest of patients. The purpose of this important legislation is to make sure that patients and staff can benefit directly from the digital transformation of healthcare.”

“I know people are understandably concerned to safeguard the security of their health records which is why the Bill emphasises the need for a secure processing environment for digital records.  In all of this, it’s very important that the patient is at the centre of what we are building. A Health Data Guardian and Consultative Forum will ensure ongoing public engagement and champion their rights in relation to how health data is managed and used. Overall, this approach will improve patient experience and outcomes, and ensure greater efficiency and value for money in the way that healthcare is delivered, managed and improved.

“The Bill will also enhance patient safety through stronger identification processes. It provides for the best practice use of Eircode and the PPSN to supplement and complement the Individual Health Identifier as trusted and secure key identifiers in health record management and linkage.

“My Department is committed to the digital transformation of healthcare. Budget 2023 saw a significant increase in strategic investment in eHealth and information systems and the Health Information Bill is fully aligned with the Digital Health Strategic Framework (2023-2030) that my Department is preparing. This approach will ensure greater, but governed, access to electronic health data and that data is used safely and securely to the benefit of patients and their families, and healthcare staff in the years ahead.”