16 December 2015
By Bryan T. Smyth
Fine Gael Cork North West TD, Áine Collins, has said that in order to support patients and front line staff working in the Health Service, investment in health ICT systems is badly needed.
“Investment in health communications and technology systems is badly needed to best serve patients and to support the staff working in our health system. It will save lives and will also save vital funds that can be used elsewhere in the care of patients.
“We must also invest in the right skills when hiring in the health service. Of course the priority should be in hiring front line staff, but they cannot do their jobs without a properly equipped support team behind them.
“Technology is a very valuable tool for the health service and we need to use innovation in the management of our health services. We need a system that is totally connected, with patients’ records kept in the one place from cradle to grave.
“The current system is not connected or efficient. Many hospitals still rely on reams of hard copy files which is leading to poor patient management and unnecessary processes and it is putting more strain on front line staff and putting patients at risk.
“I experience this first hand as I have to take my youngest daughter to hospital regularly, and each time I am astounded at how big her file is growing. Surely the logical thing would be to digitise these files. Of course this would take funding but it would have so many benefits, including cost savings, so I can’t understand why this isn’t being done. Our health service needs a proper client management system just like every modern organisation that deals with the public. Relying on paper files is archaic and means errors are more likely.
“We only have to look at the significant ICT investment that took place in the Revenue in the late 90’s. Now all workers can have their own PAYE account online and self-employed people can file and return themselves. It is so much more efficient than the old system and is far less error prone. This saves both money and also valuable time in terms of staff hours.
“This is a health system that we have inherited and are working hard to reform. The last Government spent a massive €16 billion on healthcare, but less than 1% of their budget was spent on client management systems and upgrading of ICT. This investment should have happened when we had bigger budgets to work with. Even though we have started this process now, it will still take 10 years to bring our system up to necessary standards. As public representatives, my colleagues and I must work hard to ensure that this is dealt with in the lifetime of the next government.
“With free GP care for under 6’s and over 70’s in place, we are making good progress towards universal health care for all and removing the unfair two tier health system we inherited from Fianna Fáil. The changes are making a real difference to the lives of the youngest and oldest in our society and delivers on the Government’s promise of enhancing primary care. But we can’t stop there. We must ensure that, as we continue to reform the health service, we upgrade the systems and procedures that underpin it, in order to ensure the most efficient and reliable system possible for patients.”