Ireland’s Council of Clinical Information Officers has 145 members from 35 disciplines and is pushing to formalise the role across the country.

EHealth Ireland’s chief clinical information officer Yvonne Goff said that since eHealth Ireland was created a year ago, it has had a strong focus on clinical engagement; adding that the need for this was one of the big lessons learned from England’s work to digitise its health system.

While the role of chief clinical information officer has been established elsewhere in the UK, Goff said it remains a new concept in Ireland and she is the only person who officially holds this position.

Getting more people appointed into CCIO roles is a top priority and she would also like to see a more formal clinical group advising on national ICT projects.

Goff said the interest of healthcare professionals in the potential of technology is shown by the large and diverse membership of Ireland’s CCIO council, which has 145 participants from 35 disciplines.

“I’m only one person, one opinion, so we built a council of clinicians. In some respects it’s like pushing an open door because all of these people are so passionate and want to be involved,” Goff said.

The council meets four times a year. It previously had a more ‘top-down approach’ whereby experts would speak to members about what is happening in other places, but from March this year, council members will set the agendas, she added.

One of the key items on the agenda for 2016 is data protection. Ireland is introducing a new unique health identifier, similar to the NHS Number in England and Wales, and the council needs to review whether a change of legislation is needed to get informed consent from patients.

There will be a focus on developing the GP, community and mental health areas to encourage more digital leaders and members will also have input on eHealth Ireland’s creation of a business case for a national electronic health record.

Goff said that while previously any clinician with a passion for IT was accepted onto the council, she is now looking to strike a balance between accepting everyone and having a group of people with true influence in their organisations.

“I’m very cognisant that we shouldn’t be top heavy, but I want experts to ensure we have covered all the areas we need to cover,” she explained.

Goff is a radiographer who became involved in IT via Ireland’s national programme to implement radiology information systems and picture archiving and communication systems – NIMIS.

“I see myself as an interpreter between the clinical and the IT. Clinical people have a desire to improve, but sometimes we tend to not have a true understanding of how to get there,” she said.