Ireland gets new platform to embrace electronic health records

26 Jun 2024

Image: © Rene L/

The platform has been trialed by the HSE and its creators now want to scale it up to give Ireland a centralised electronic health records system.

A new platform to store and share electronic health data has been announced today (26 June) at Maynooth University’s Digital Health Summer School.

The university said this platform – called the Digital Health Spine Living Lab – was developed over a five-year period with the support of 50 Health Service Executive (HSE) clinicians and social care workers. It lets users share electronic health records and store various medical assessments.

The HSE has been piloting and operating an electronic health record system based on this Digital Health Spine to support vulnerable communities, including people who are homeless, the Roma community and Ukrainian refugees.

The platform is modelled on the UK’s NHS Spine platform and aims to provide the architecture for Ireland to embrace electronic health records. After being used to help more than 15,000 vulnerable people across Ireland, the goal is to scale up the platform for national use.

The core idea of the project is the creation of an electronic health record for every citizen in Ireland, implemented on an open-source platform.

Prof Martin Curley, director of the digital health ecosystem at Maynooth’s Innovation Value Institute (IVI), said this platform will give clinical teams full visibility into a patient’s health records and will allow “better care to be delivered in the right place and in the right time”.

“We are one of the few remaining countries with no centralised electronic health records,” Curley said. “The more we delay the more people die prematurely. We are now ready to leapfrog to a new era of care with the announcement of this digital platform.”

There are various potential benefits to adopting electronic health records and some hospitals in Ireland have trialed these systems to improve their services. But it appears Ireland is far behind other countries in this regard.

A report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) last year said that Ireland has the lowest digital health maturity ranking of OECD countries.

A long-discussed initiative to improve access to health data – the European Health Data Space – was approved earlier this year by the EU Parliament. This initiative aims to standardise electronic health records across the EU and could benefit Ireland greatly.

Last November, Elaine Murray, the public affairs lead at EIT Health Ireland and UK, said the European Health Data Space could be a “game-changer” for how healthcare is delivered and how health research is carried out in Ireland.

However, a report from this organisation suggests that Ireland currently has a “fragmented health service landscape” for digital services. It also warned that investment in digital technologies will be required for Ireland to make the most of the potential of this new data space.

Earlier this month, Maynooth and the IVI presented a Data Governance Roadmap, which contains strategies for how Ireland can use data and AI responsibly and effectively in the future.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic