The 2m ehealth site that never was

  • Niall Hunter, Editor

Two million euro of public money was spent on the development of an 'ehealth' portal which was never launched, according to a report released today.

The portal was to have been a single online point of access for health information and health service transactions, with the address www.HealthIreland.ie

It was initially planned that a phased development of the portal would be necessary, with progressive widening of the range of services made available online.

It was intended that the portal would be initially launched by the then health boards in early 2004, and gradually phased in over a number of years.

According to today's report on egovernment from the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), the services planned for the portal in its initial phase included a health and social services directory; an easily-understood database on how the health services operate in Ireland; information about health topics and illnesses; anonymous online advice from health professionals in response to queries; a facility to order and pay for birth, marriage and death certificates; waiting list information; online learning for health professionals and European Health Insurance Card applications.

In the longer term, the portal was expected to provide for the online delivery of lab and test results to GPs, processing of online applications for medical cards and other grants, and access for patients and health professionals to medical records.

The health boards selected IBM in a tender process for the development of the portal. It was, according to the C&AG report, officially 'launched' in May 2004, but never became available online.

The portal project ran into difficulties early on, with the project steering group expressing concerns about the hardware and infrastructure, uncertainty over its ownership with the establishment of the HSE in 2005, the lack of a support team for the project and 'insufficient meaningful content' for the portal.

An evaluation of the project just prior to the establishment of the HSE found that decisions made early on in the project on use of software and physical system structure were based on achieving short-term goals rather than focusing on developing a robust and scaleable system.

The evaluation recommended a freeze on any further development of the portal in its then configuration. The HSE, following its establishment in January 2005, dissolved the project team and the project was suspended.

The C&AG report reveals that the construction expenditure on the health portal, had it progressed, would have been around €10 million, with €1.5 million in annual running costs.

The developers of the project, IBM, were paid around €600,000 for their work, with €800,000 spent on software; none of this software was used following the suspension of the project.

According to the C&AG report, the HSE is now designing a new, comprehensive website, the first phase of which is expected to be launched before March of this year.

 


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