HIQA launches national standard for electronic patient summaries to improve safety

15 Jan 2019

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HIQA has unveiled a national standard on information required for electronic patient summaries in Ireland.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is the body in Ireland tasked with setting the standards for many of the country’s healthcare digitisation projects. Today (15 January), it unveiled a standard on information requirements for a national electronic patient summary.

What is an electronic patient summary?

As opposed to an entire medical record, a national electronic patient summary is a relevant set of information needed to treat a patient in unplanned care, such as emergency or out-of-hours treatment.

The type of data in the summary includes demographics, health problems (diagnosis), medications, allergies, procedures and vaccinations received. The summary is intended for medical professionals in emergency or out-of-hours care as well as GPs to access. The ultimate aim is for the patient to have access to this in future.

HIQA says patients will benefit

Rachel Flynn, director of health information and standards at HIQA, said that a national electronic patient summary can deliver “significant benefits” for patients and healthcare practitioners alike. It can boost patient safety by providing the most up-to-date information relating to their care.

“For example, if a patient can’t remember their allergies, a healthcare practitioner can check the electronic patient summary to make sure the medication they give the patient is safe for them to take.” If a patient is unresponsive or unconscious, an electronic patient summary can provide life-saving data to their caregivers.

The electronic patient summary standard is part of the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy, which was published in 2018. The strategy emphasises the importance of summary care records to support information-sharing, digitisation of health services, and a greater deal of control and empowerment for patients.

Flynn added: “A national electronic patient summary can also benefit healthcare practitioners by enabling a more efficient way of working and quicker access to patient information. It also encourages good recordkeeping and improves data quality in primary care.

“The National Standard published today is a key building block in the development of an Electronic Healthcare Record in Ireland and will ultimately help improve patient safety.”

To create the new standard, representatives from the HSE, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, patient advocacy groups and other stakeholders took part in an advisory group. A six-week public consultation, focus groups and one-on-one interviews were undertaken. HIQA looked at similar projects in the UK, Australia, the Netherlands and New Zealand to determine best practices.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects