Many benefits to electronic patient records

Makes healthcare safer and more effective
  • Deborah Condon

The introduction of electronic patient summaries would make the delivery of healthcare in Ireland safer and more effective, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has said.

An electronic patient summary, also known as a summary care record, provides a snapshot of a patient's essential clinical information, such as medical conditions, recent procedures or diagnosed allergies.

It brings together information from various IT systems into a single place and the aim of this is to support medical treatment during an episode of unscheduled care. For example, if a person was brought to an Emergency Department (ED), the doctors there would be able to view a summary of their health information.

"Electronic patient summaries have the potential to make healthcare delivery safer and more effective by ensuring healthcare professionals have access to a patient's information, such as medical history and prescribed medications, at the point of care. This is essential in an emergency or unscheduled health visit, and very useful during other episodes of care," explained Rachel Flynn, HIQA's director of health information and standards.

HIQA has published recommendations to the Minister for Health on the implementation of a national electronic patient summary. This was listed by the Sláintecare Implementation Plan (2018) as a key element of Ireland's national e-Health policy. It is also seen as key in the modernising of Ireland's health and social care system.

According to HIQA, the introduction of electronic patient summaries would offer major benefits, resulting in "better information, better decisions and a better experience for all involved". Patients would no longer have to remember details of their conditions and medications for example.

"A summary care record supports information sharing, the development of digital services and creates greater patient empowerment. Throughout our consultation process, we found that the introduction of a summary care record in Ireland was widely supported," Ms Flynn noted.

HIQA has published 22 recommendations, which have been informed by national and international evidence from nine jurisdictions. Electronic patient summaries are already used in a number of countries, including England, Spain, Denmark and Finland.

HIQA's recommendations include having good quality data available to support a national electronic patient summary and having a system that is automated and easy to use.

The recommendations made by HIQA can be viewed in full here.


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