Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (829)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

829. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the status of the development of a unique patient identifier; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6863/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Individual Health Identifier (IHI) was developed specifically for the health service and has its legal basis under the Health Identifiers Act 2014. The IHI is a key enabler for integrated care and eHealth as it facilitates joining of disparate health records about the same patient from different healthcare settings.

All electronic referrals from GP practice systems to hospitals now have the IHI inserted as they are transmitted to the hospital, provided the referral contains the necessary demographic details. GP practice systems have been updated to store and display the IHI. The GP contract also provides agreed timelines for the adoption and use of IHIs by GPs.

In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the planned implementation of the IHI to many national systems was paused and instead, priority for IHI implementation was switched to the use in the Covid Track & Trace and Covid Vaccination Systems. Vaccination records require a unique identifier to be assigned for each person and the IHI is ideally suited for this.

The IHI has been deployed for the Covid-19 Case Tracker and it has been included on all Covid-19 referrals for tests or assessments. The IHI is embedded in transactions from the point of referral for a Covid-19 test to the communication of test results to clinicians and to the individual. This includes IHI use with the allocation of Covid-19 tests, the receipt of Covid-19 test swabs into the laboratories for analysis and the return of that result to public health and for contact tracing if required.

Importantly, the IHI will also be employed as part of the current development of the national system for Covid-19 vaccinations. The HSE IT system for the national Covid-19 vaccination programme has been developed at an exceptional pace and the IHI will be used as a unique identifier assigned to an individual’s vaccination record.