Minister Harris launches Public Consultation on a National Health Information Policy
Minister for Health Simon Harris today opened the Health Information Policy Seminar, jointly hosted by the Department of Health and HIQA, and launched a public consultation process on a new national health information policy.
Launching the consultation process on the new policy, the Minister set out the pressing need for a new patient-centred health information policy for the digital age, the benefits it would bring for better patient care and the technological and cultural challenges that have to be addressed.
Speaking at the event, Minister Harris said “Information is essential if we are to ensure best patient care and an effective and modern health service. We need to optimise its potential for those purposes, while respecting people’s privacy and confidentiality. That means we need a new approach to how the health services use information.”
“We need a health information policy that will enable us to deliver the type of health service the Government is determined to build. In fact, health information and eHealth were identified in the Sláintecare Report as critical enablers to implement the change required and the Committee endorsed the implementation of the eHealth strategy.”
“We must ensure that our new health information policy has the support of those who work in healthcare. It must provide them with the information they need to provide the best possible care to their patients. The new policy must also enjoy the confidence of patients. Its focus will be firmly on meeting their needs and respecting their personal information.”
“The last major statement on health information policy was in 2004. Smart technology has radically changed the world we live in. It has become part of our daily lives in a way that was unimaginable 13 years ago. The use of modern technology in eHealth is already an important feature of the Irish health service, but if technology is to best support new models of integrated care the approach to information in healthcare needs to come of age.”
“I hope that anyone with an interest, including patients, healthcare professionals, health service providers and health researchers will participate in this consultation and make a contribution to the development of this essential new policy.”
The consultation information and survey are available on the Department’s website.
Millions of patients engage with the health service each year. The availability and analysis of health information can add significant value to patient care, health service planning and performance, health service delivery based on need and health research to discover innovations in healthcare delivery and care.
Patients share their personal health information with health services on a continuous basis at each step of their care pathway throughout their lives. Ensuring access to the right information, at the right place, at the right time can lead to more effective decision-making on the part of healthcare professionals, which in turn supports patient safety and better outcomes for patients. Patients can also be empowered to be more informed and involved in their care by having access to their own health information which will support self-management of aspects of their care such as access to appointment booking systems, test results, immunisation records or medication summaries.
Using health data for the management of health services and health research is essential for high quality, safe, effective and equitable health services. Sharing patient information, appropriately, between health professionals for care and treatment or for health research can also help to build knowledge on health conditions, symptoms, prognosis and treatment for patients or for reviewing and improving the quality of care provided and planning efficient health services. Where patient information is shared, it is essential that such sharing is in keeping with professional best practice, fully compliant with the relevant law and wholly transparent to the patient.
However, there is a need to strike an appropriate balance between using and sharing personal health information appropriately while continuing to protect a person’s right to privacy and confidentiality. Patients must be assured that their personal health information is handled legally, transparently, securely, efficiently and effectively in order to deliver the best possible care.
The purpose of this consultation is to set out the core principles and policy pillars required to provide overall direction to how personal health information is processed, particularly in the context of the General Data Protection Regulation, with the objective of providing clarity, consistency and certainty for both health services providers and patients.
We would like to find out what people think about how personal health information is collected, used and shared in our health services – what is working well and what needs to be improved. We would also like to hear the public’s views on what future health information policy should look like and are particularly keen to hear from patients, healthcare professionals, health service providers and health researchers. However, everyone with an interest, including regulators, advocacy groups and representative organisations is welcome to participate.