The Irish Software Engineering Research Centre (Lero) is embarking on a series of projects with Limerick hospitals, including the Mid Western Regional Hospital, in order to research the potential for improved software to ultimately boost the flow of information in real-time in hospitals when doctors are looking after patients.
The aim of the research is to develop a hospital quality assurance programme, dubbed H-QAP, that could be potentially be deployed by the HSE to enhance software quality control in hospitals around Ireland.
The research could pave the way for new IT systems that could be used across the Irish hospital sector to ensure that clinicians receive accurate patient data in real-time.
Louise Reid, a clinical audit development officer within the HSE Mid-West and a current PhD student at University of Limerick (UL), is conducting research with Lero in a number of hospitals in Limerick on the development of the H-QAP programme.
Reid has received funding of €20,000 from the EU via its TRANSFoRm project.
In addition, Martha Lotter, a radiographer in the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Limerick, is set to work with Lero to research the development of a quality performance management system for radiology in the hospital. Lotter has recently been awarded an Irish Research Council employment-based grant worth €75,000.
Scope for this software research
Dr Ita Richardson, principal investigator at Lero and senior lecturer at UL, said the results of both programmes have the potential to be used right across the HSE.
"We intend to implement H-QAP in other departments and ultimately, to hospitals nationally," she said.
While software is increasingly been used across hospitals globally, Richardson pointed out that in many cases the necessary quality control systems are not yet in place.
"Regulatory control alone will not ensure that a system is successful or safe in a clinical environment," she said. "We intend that the results from these research programmes involving clinicians practicing in real-time health environments will boost Ireland’s capabilities in the implementation and use of quality controlled software applications in hospitals."
Prof Mike Hinchey, Lero’s director, said this new research programme is important because the centre’s research to date suggests that quality standards for IT systems in hospitals fall short of those for medical devices.
"The EU has declared that any software used in a medical setting should be classified as a medical device," he said.