Written Answers. - Computerisation Programme.

Bernard Allen


539 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to a statement (details supplied); and if he will outline his proposals to deal with the problem identified whereby the lack of data in health care systems is a major problem that is impeding the establishment of quality measures. [19484/00]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the abstract to a presentation by Professor Miriam Wiley, Health Policy Research Centre, the Economic and Social Research Centre – ESRI – at the 17th international conference of the International Society for Quality in Health Care, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland on 13 – 16 September 2000 in Dublin. The presentation was primarily concerned with data issues and was not specific to the Irish or any other health environment. It explored the factors that need to be addressed to ensure quality standards are achieved in the measurement of quality. The abstract also referred to the development and availability of appropriate databases being a necessary pre-condition if quality measures are to be successfully advanced from the theoretical to the applied.

In a modern health service, information systems are recognised as being essential to underpin all aspects of data management and effective service delivery. Over the past five years my Department has invested approximately £55 million across the health services to enable agencies to install a wide range of modern information systems to enhance the delivery of health services.

The national development plan clearly identifies the increasingly important role which information support systems will have in providing an efficient and effective health service. The plan has earmarked approximately £145 million for capital investments on information and communications technology, ICT, developments in the health services over the period 2000-06. The increasing role of ICT in health care will contribute significantly to maintaining high standards of data quality and to providing a comprehensive range of data to help in planning better delivery of services.

The availability of accurate, relevant and timely data is, of course, an essential prerequisite for the development of quality measures in health care. Successive strategy statements have emphasised the development of quality initiatives in health care. Initiatives such as HIPE, casemix classification are invaluable sources of data and I understand that Professor Wiley's presentation dealt extensively in this area.

Another very important development has been the implementation of a major database on disability. The national intellectual disability database was established in 1995 and provides a comprehensive information database for decision making in relation to the planning, funding and management of services for people with intellectual disabilities. The availability of such detailed national data was a key factor in the Government's decision to allocate additional funding of £35 million in the 1999 budget for the development of intellectual disability services. The database will also be used to monitor service developments arising from this substantial investment. In addition, development of a similar database for physical and sensory disability services is currently being co-ordinated by the Health Research Board.

In a broader context, I would refer to the public health information system, PHIS, which has been developed by my Department in collaboration with the director of public health in each health board. The PHIS takes data from many sources including HIPE, vital statistics, and national cancer registry and makes this information available as a common public health data sets. The PHIS now provides the baseline data for monitoring trends in health by region and over time.
In its review of An Action Programme for the Millennium, the Government announced its intention to retain consultants to carry out a comprehensive value for money audit of the health services. As part of their remit the consultants have also been requested to make recommendations on the development of a management information system for the health service which will allow monitoring of the above matters on an ongoing basis.
In addition, a project team has been established in my Department's child care area to undertake a major review of child care information systems and to define the management information requirements for this area.
Recognising the need to co-ordinate and integrate health information systems to facilitate both health service management and public health assessment, my Department has recently established a national health information strategy committee. The report of the committee will be produced during the course of next year and will recommend the necessary steps towards the aim of achieving well-integrated, comprehensive and accessible health information to serve the many needs for planning and evaluation.