It has been revealed that a data fault has affected 25,000 patient records and diagnostic images in the Health Service Executive (HSE) computer system.

Patients may have to have scans carried out again as a result of the fault in Ireland’s national radiology information system, creating potential errors in displaying the correct diagnostic reporting data in the records

The Irish Times reported the figure this morning (4 August) saying that software was at fault and not clinicians who carried out and interpreted scans.

The report says at least 25,000 X-rays, MRIs, CTs and ultrasounds taken since 2011 are affected by the error, which was discovered last week.

A statement issued on HSE’s website (3 August) said that it has identified an issue involving imaging examinations reports which are generated as part of National Integrated Medical Imaging System (NIMIS) – which appears to be at the centre of the problem. It is a system to capture and store radiology, cardiology and other diagnostic images electronically.

It is understood that that when images were sent for archiving from one part of the system to another, the “less than” or “<” symbol was omitted. The incorrectly stored data may have misled doctors making diagnoses, possibly leading to over-treatment.

“The issue identified is in relation to the ‘less than’ symbol (<) being recorded in the examination report on the PACs component,” the press release stated.  “Where the (<) symbol is used on a report and when that report is viewed electronically within the PACS, the symbol has been omitted and is not visible.”

It went on to clarify that most of the reports either viewed on paper or electronically within NIMIS RIS have not been affected by the symbol issue. “It is also the case that reports sent electronically to GP practices, are not affected by this issue.”

It is understood the problem arose a week ago when all hospitals and radiology departments operating NIMIS were notified of the issue – according to the statement.

“Action was taken on Friday, July 28 where a technical solution was applied to the NIMIS production system to prevent this issue arising on further reports stored within the PACS.”

“The system has been checked and no new issues have been created since 7pm, Thursday, July 27.”

At this stage, it is not clear how it happened and whether patients have been affected or not.

However, the statement confirmed that as a precautionary measure the HSE is reviewing the patient safety risks associated with the issue and an incident management team has been convened to manage the process.

Digital Health News has contacted HSE for comment.