€500m integrated system to overhaul Irish hospitals


3 Jun 2004

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The Department of Health (DoH) is about to sanction the construction of an electronic Hospital Information System (HIS) that could cost in the region of €500m over the next five years.

Siliconrepublic.com understands that the procurement process has been concluded, a multi-agency agreement reached and all that remains is for a ministerial sanction from the Minister for Health and Children Micheál Martin TD (pictured) to release the necessary funding before construction commences as early as next month.

UK-based software firm iSoft has emerged as the winning candidate to implement the enterprise software solution that would tie together all aspects of running hospitals across Ireland in terms of patient records, procurement, scheduling and financial management.

The tender process sought the construction of a server-based, centralised IT system that it is hoped will resolve the DoH’s problematic spending history and move the country’s health boards and hospitals in the direction of e-procurement.

iSoft’s flagship technology, the iPatient Manager system, provides medical professionals with a store for integrated information across all aspects of the public and private health sector, including acute care, community care, mental health, child health, aged care and social services. The software is flexible enough to enable patient information to be updated through devices such as palm computers, telephones and the internet.

The awarding of the lucrative software element of the project follows on from last year when the South Eastern Health Board selected iSoft as the preferred supplier for its HIS. At the time of the signing of the contract, it was understood that options were included for a phased extension of the contract to allow for the rollout of the preferred solution to other Irish health boards and hospitals.

Sources close to the HIS procurement process speculate that the total investment in the system could be around half a billion euro over the next five years and that the software licensing aspect of that would only one tenth of the total cost when you consider the acquisition of computer systems, system integration and embedding the system throughout the hospitals and healthboards of Ireland.

Companies vying for chunks of the lucrative HIS contract include IBM, Accenture, Fujitsu Siemens and Hewlett-Packard (HP). Last year, IBM beat off competition from HP and Fujitsu Siemens to win a multimillion euro contract to overhaul the IT systems of the Northern Ireland Health Services and recently signed a contract with the Irish Health Services to provide the hardware and software that would underpin the Irish Health Services’ National Human Resource and Payroll Programme, which will involve SAP software and IBM server technology.

Denis Doherty, the director of the Health Boards Executive, the agency charged with modernising the Irish health delivery system, told Knowledge Ireland: “I am reluctant to disclose the financial implications at this stage until funding has been sanctioned by the Minister for Health and Children.

“The real value of the system will be the introduction of electronic records that all hospitals can access, which will cut down on delays and mistakes that currently haunt the system. On the basis of the appropriate authorisation, medical professionals will be able to access a single database that would contain a patient’s medical history. This will help to reduce medical errors by cutting out the use of handwriting and by involving the use of barcode technology, potentially radio frequency ID (RFID).

“It will mean reducing the number of health boards to one with an enterprise solution tying the hospitals together.

“This technology will keep Ireland in pace with similar developments in the US and the UK. If this procurement is sanctioned we will be ahead of developments in the UK. While I am reluctant to disclose the financial implications of this multi-agency contract, I can say that it will have a revolutionary effect on the administration of patient’s affairs in this country, moving from entirely paper-based methods to the digital world. If the contract is sanctioned by the Minister, we hope to begin rolling the system out in July. We are optimistic that the Minister for Health and Children will sanction the rollout,” Doherty said.

UPDATE: While Doherty was reluctant to disclose the financial implications of the multi-agency contract, he said was confident that the minister would press ahead with the sanctioning the rollout. “I can say that it will have a revolutionary effect on the administration of patient’s affairs in this country, moving from entirely paper-based methods to the digital world. If the contract is sanctioned by the Minister, we hope to begin rolling the system out in July. We are optimistic that the Minister for Health and Children will sanction the rollout.”

By John Kennedy