The Irish Government will commit almost half a billion Euros of investment to e-health when it publishes its National Development Plan for health.
Investment will be focused on systems that improve patient care in hospital or community settings, with a particular focus on supporting community-based health professionals
As part of the National Development Plan (NDP) the Irish Government plans to invest Euros 490m in e-health over the next seven years, at a level of Euros 70m a year.
After a lengthy planning and tendering process, the new investment programme will be formally announced when Ireland unveils its Health Information and Communication Technology sub-programme in the NDP for 2007-2013.
The six-year investment plan is intended to provide the funding to deliver Ireland’s National Health Information Strategy, first published in 2004. The document is expected to lay out detailed updated plans for implementing the 2004 e-health strategy.
A Department of Health and Children spokesperson told EHE: “The commitment in the NDP is to an investment of Euros 70m per annum, amounting to Euros 490m over the life of the programme, in the area of health information and communication technology in the health services."
They added: “This investment supports the objectives set out in the National Health Information Strategy published in 2004. It recognises the importance of having comprehensive and timely information to support the delivery of appropriate and effective health care."
The spokesperson said ICT developments in the health service will be targeted at improving patient-centred systems in our hospitals and community settings.
"Development will be directed at implementing systems that improve the operational processes in our services by supporting healthcare professionals, while capturing the information necessary to ensure proper planning for the future.”
The spokesperson added: “Some of the areas which will be given support include chronic disease management (for example diabetic care), emergency departments, medication management and health surveillance."
They said that investment would also be required in critical ancillary services such as radiology and laboratory through the introduction of modern information and imaging systems. "This will allow patients results and x-ray images to be available outside hospital boundaries, such as in a tertiary centre and indeed for a GP in a primary care centre. It will also facilitate remote consultation and improve the information available in a primary care setting in line with the primary care strategy.”
The Irish Department of Health and Children said they would be looking at investing in national ICT infrastructure to support health professionals working in a variety of settings.
“Development of an ICT infrastructure for health that will support the delivery of modern patient care systems in a safe, secure and stable manner will be addressed. In particular, attention will be given to ensuring access to ICT for many community based staff who are often detached from major centres.
“This infrastructure will become the foundation for the provision of modern information systems within the health service that will help to enhance patient care.”
ICT funds will also be used for the development and improvement of support systems which are needed to provide information for planning and management purposes in the health services.
The spokesperson concluded: “ICT in health care is important in making the health service more people centred, improving the quality and safety of care, helping staff to make the most effective use of their time and expertise and promoting greater efficiency. In addition it will enable those responsible for planning and management of services to have better information to inform their decision making.”
Department of Health and Children, Ireland