Richard Corbridge has told EHI he will use the lessons he learned from the English National Programme for IT in his new role as the first chief information officer for Ireland’s health service.

Corbridge has been appointed as the CIO of Ireland’s Health Service Executive, with a brief to improve the country’s use of technology in healthcare. He will start in the role on 15 December.

Corbridge is currently chief information officer at the NHS National Institute for Health Research’s Clinical Research Network, which provides information systems and business intelligence to a workforce of around 10,000 NHS staff.

The network’s open data platform was a finalist at the EHI Awards 2014 for ‘excellence in healthcare business analytics’, for bring clinical research data sets together with multiple forms of data analysis and visualisation.

Before that, Corbridge worked at the NHS Information Centre, as well as at NHS Connecting for Health during the days of NPfIT.

Corbridge told EHI the challenges and opportunities of being the first CIO were behind his decision to accept the position.

“I’m getting in at the ground floor, and it’s everyone’s dream to start from the beginning, add to a strategy and pull a team together.”

He said his main focus in the role will be to ensure technology serves as the base for healthcare provision while expanding “local pockets of excellence” across the country.

His areas of focus will include how to establish an individual health identifier for patients and put in place building blocks for national health IT systems, while also connecting in to broader health reform plans.

Corbridge said there are “a huge amount of lessons” that Ireland can learn from NPfIT as it moves ahead with its own e-health plans.

“One of the lessons the national programme demonstrated is that you have to take people on a journey. You can’t just say: ‘Thou shalt do this’… you need to lay the foundation first.”

Ireland will also have to address a history of underinvestment in health IT if its e-health programme is to be a success, he said.

The CIO position was established after the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive published an e-health strategy in December 2013, identifying a roadmap for the delivery and implementation of e-health in Ireland.

Corbridge will also serve as chief executive of eHealth Ireland as part of his role as CIO.

Read the full interview with Richard Corbridge in Insight.