eHealth Ireland & Northern Ireland Connected Health Ecosystem

The second eHealth Ireland & Northern Ireland Connected Health Ecosystem event was held in the Trinity College Biomedical Sciences Institute on Friday 12th January.

The event was opened by the Chief Clinical Information Officer, Yvonne Goff, who welcomed everyone and thanked those who worked to make the event a reality and the ADAPT Centre for hosting the day. Yvonne spoke of the importance of cross border collaboration in Ireland and emphasised how our eHealth systems must be interoperable and independent of borders.

Our host, Professor Mary McCarron, Dean of Health Sciences, spoke next and she commended eHealth Ireland for fostering innovation and facilitating better healthcare in Ireland. Professor McCarron also spoke of the unique nature of eHealth Ireland in it having to deal concurrently with patients, clinicians, industry leaders and emerging technologies. She asked that patients be kept at the centre of all discussions and that we all make sure eHealth is accessible to those who need it most, namely the most vulnerable, the frailest and the most fragile. We also had a surprise visit from Stevie the Robot who promises to help people live independently and in their own homes for longer.

Stevie the Robot

Brian O’Connor, Chair of the European Connected Health Alliance was the moderator on the day and he began by introducing Muiris O’Connor, Assistant Secretary General in the Department of Health. Muiris spoke about the existing north/south co-operation which is happening at service and department levels formally and informally. Muiris advised us that despite Brexit, the UK was going nowhere and he told us of his department’s belief that building and developing our north/south relationships was the best contingency planning we can make for Brexit.

Assistant Secretary General Muiris O’Connor

The Director of Primary Care at the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, Mark Lee, was next to speak. Mark outlined how North and South face similar challenges, namely ageing populations, lifestyle challenges and adapting to emerging technologies. Mark was hugely encouraged with the levels of interest in North-South collaboration and he stressed that to make services more sustainable in Ireland they must be underpinned by a partnership approach. Mark described Northern Ireland as being in a goldilocks position for developing eHealth, namely the population of two million was not too large and not too small. He said there were already areas of very good co-ordination with the South such as ambulance services and planning for major emergencies and he described the importance of cross border initiatives with the upcoming departure of Northern Ireland from the EU.

We moved on next to addressing the challenges of delivering Healthcare innovation and our current CIO and National Director of Health Business Services, Jane Carolan was first to speak . Jane opened by detailing the Knowledge and Information plan developed over the last few years in the HSE, she then asked how we could maximise the care we deliver to the people using our services through maximising our technology and, what opportunities does it give us. Jane then spoke about delivering a national Electronic Health Record and told the meeting how the Rotunda had gone live with the maternal new-born EHR since our last gathering and that Holles Street was due to go live with its EHR the following day. The most important point Jane made in her presentation was that the essential component of delivering change and moving forward was people, not technology. She stressed that without people being with us we can deliver nothing. She asked that people consider “What if our culture could be our advantage” and told us that the culture we already have can be leveraged to give us an opportunity to deliver what we really want to do. She concluded with slides reminding us that while we are focused on Ireland, Northern Ireland and Brexit, we are part of a global movement.

Interim CIO Jane Carolan

Second to speak was Liam McIvor, CEO Business Services Organisation, Northern Ireland. Liam spoke of successful regional projects being rolled out in Northern Ireland including the Radiology Order Communications system, and their regional mortality and morbidity system which went live in 2016. He said their priorities are driving consistency and standardisation and they are getting constantly and consistently better.

Our last speaker in this module was Fran Thompson, Director for Engagement and Delivery. Fran detailed the evolution of the EHR Persona Development project from the workshops undertaken with Clinical, ICT and Administrative staff, patient groups and Health Service Management, to today, where we have both patient and healthcare personas and scenarios which are being used to ensure future systems are designed to accommodate the wide variety of patients and healthcare professionals that the health service works with every day.

Networking during the coffee break

Brian O Connor concluded the session with a brief talk on the EHC Alliance International Ecosystem network, detailing the work being done in eHealth Ireland, Digital Health Scotland and Yorkshire & Humber Digital Health and Wellness. The day continued with talks on General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Research Data sharing and The Digital Health Society and Cross Border Collaboration Projects in Action. These were followed by a presentation on eHealth in Estonia from Piret Hirv from the Ministry of Social Affairs in Estonia. The great strides Estonia has taken in eHealth delivery were outlined and these include them having 99% of state services online, 99% of all prescriptions being digital and 100% of the citizens having a national digital health record. Piret told us that in Estonia everything has been digitised and only getting married or divorced and selling real estate cannot be done online.

We next heard about government support from Enterprise Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland before finishing the day with a Q&A session with Yvonne Goff, Jane Carolan, Liam McIvor and Sean Donaghy . These Healthcare leaders answered questions on rare disease support, how to get the right information to the right people, what impressed them during the day, and what they had learned from the day.

Senior Healthcare Leaders panel

There were also a number of workshops for attendees, these were: European Funding – North and South Opportunities, Making Interoperability Work: what is needed?Informed Consent for sharing your eHealth Information, The Digital Health Society, eHealth Ireland HER &Encompass NI EHCR and finally ePharmacy & Medicines Optimisation. The whole day worked well showcasing the existing co-operation between health services in the north and south and the contacts made and information shared ensured this will continue into the future.

Photos by Thomas McKenna and Seamus Carroll. 

Jim McGrane

About Jim McGrane

Jim has worked in ICT for 27 years in both the public and private sector, and has worked in the HSE for 9 years. He is currently based in the Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore Campus. Jim finds that it is a very exciting time to be working in healthcare, especially with the huge advances in digital health being rolled out and being planned, and hopes to play a part in this innovation for many years to come.

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