Thursday, 22 April 2021

Questions (157)

Emer Higgins

Question:

157. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Health when the sections of the Health Identifiers Act 2014 which have not been commenced will commence; the current impediments stopping the progress of the sections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20999/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Health Identifiers Act provides the legal basis for the introduction of a system of unique health identifiers for (a) individuals and (b) health services providers in Ireland. The Individual Health Identifier (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.

To date, Sections 7(2)-(6), 10(3), 11(1)-(5), (7), 12-20, 24, 35-39 have not been commenced. None of these are required in order for the HSE to implement current and immediately planned, deployments of the IHI but will be commenced as soon as they are required.

The IHI has already started to prove its value since the start of the pandemic and is core to the national covid vaccination programme. It was used to uniquely identify records for people who went through the test and trace process, to ensure the health service established unique records on a national basis and regardless of where patients were treated. The IHI also proved valuable as people progressed through the covid care pathway.

As people use the covid vaccination portal they are asked for their PPSN. Combined with their firstname, lastname and date of birth, this enables the HSE to identify their IHI and create national vaccination records with unique record numbers. As services start to return to normal, there are plans to deploy the IHI into GP practice systems and into hospital patient administration systems later this year and into 2022. This will also assist in the management of outpatient waiting lists.

The HSE have operational responsibility for implementing the I.H.I. They plan to deploy the IHI on a phased into a number of national systems following deployment to GP practice systems and hospital PAS systems. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the further planned implementation of the IHI to other national systems was paused and instead, priority for was switched to Covid-19 related initiatives.

The IHI forms part of the Covid-19 Case Tracker and is included on all Covid-19 referrals for tests or assessments, 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.

The HSE IT system for the national Covid-19 vaccination programme has been developed at an exceptional pace and the IHI acts as the unique identifier assigned to an individual’s vaccination record.