Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care Board has launched a consultation process for its eHealth and Care Strategy, with a patient portal and online access to health records among the key proposals.

The five-year strategy focuses on how to use technology to modernise health and social services from 2015 to 2020.

The consultation document outlines a range of planned projects, such as the development of a patient portal with trusted advice, self-care information and secure access to online services.

The board will also provide patients with online access to their health records, while building on existing pilot schemes to reduce paper use and allow patients to interact with health providers electronically.

It is also planning to “optimise” the current use of GP systems to provide online records access, prescription ordering and online booking, while encouraging the development and use of mobile health apps to “support, facilitate and extend the relationship between care professionals and users for self-care and management”.

The document says that while the launch of Northern Ireland’s first electronic care record system last year was a significant step forward, staff are still limited by difficulties with getting basic access to a secure PC, laptop or mobile device and a reliable network connection to connect to the systems.

To deal with this, the board is planning to provide staff with mobile access to the network and systems in 2015/16 as part of a three-year investment strategy.

It will also continue to enrich the electronic care record to link in more clinical and care information systems, providing care professionals with “appropriate role-based access”.

Community pharmacists, dentists, opticians and independent health and social care providers such as nursing homes will also be given “secure and appropriate access” to the record.

The board says it will develop plans to link citizen-captured information into shared care records, such as telemonitoring data and information directly entered by the patient or carer.

Infrastructure and applications strategies will be developed to set out plans for the area’s networks, datacentres and applications, while the board will also focus on delivering technologies for specific areas such as medicines management and pathology.

Health Minister Jim Wells said the strategy “demonstrates a continued focus on the long-term future and transformation of health and social care in Northern Ireland”.

“We have an ageing population and limited funding and in order to maintain effective services, we must look at how we can maximise the potential of technology to develop and modernise our health and care system to make it more responsive and better focused on the people it serves.”

Wells said the region has already taken significant steps to use technology in health and care, such as the introduction of the Electronic Care Record to improve access to patient information and a regional remote telemonitoring programme for people with long-term conditions.

Valerie Watts, the Health and Social Care Board’s chief executive, said the strategy will set the direction for a new focus on helping people to make decisions about their own health and wellbeing, supporting new ways of arranging services around the patient, and improving information flow around the health and social care system.

“This strategy should touch the lives of all our citizens over the next five years and bring benefits across Northern Ireland,” Watts said.

The board has set up an online survey to collect responses to the strategy.

Dr Brendan O’Brien, the chief clinical information officer for the Health and Social Care Board Northern Ireland, and his colleague, strategy manager Des O’Loan, will be talking about its experience of the Northern Ireland Integrated Care Record and information sharing at the CCIO Leaders Network Annual Conference at EHI Live 2014.

For more information about all the co-located conferences at EHI Live 2014, which takes place at the NEC in Birmingham from 4-November, visit its website. Registration is free for all and open now.