Ireland to improve medical record access with Digital Health Spine Living Lab


Digital Health Summer School unveils two efforts to improve nation’s digital maturity score


Image: Polina Tankilevitch/Pexels

Maynooth University’s Digital Health Summer School today played host to the unveiling of an innovative digital platform hosting an extensive ‘living lab’ for secure, shared electronic health records, real-time communications, and the storage of medical assessments.

Developed over a five-year period in collaboration with 50 Health Service Executive (HSE) clinicians and social care workers, the Digital Health Spine Living Lab is already supporting a community of more than 15,000 vulnerable people with complex care needs, in more than 180 distributed locations.

Ireland is ranked at the lowest level of EU Digital Health Maturity, with a score of zero, coming in far behind the second last placed, currently Czech Republic at 47%, as measured by the percentage of citizens with access to their electronic health records.



“The Digital Health Spine Living Lab gives clinical teams full 360-visibility into a patient’s electronic patient records in real-time, allowing better care to be delivered in the right place and in the right time, fully aligned with the Sláintecare strategy. This digital health solution whose development was led by clinicians, in response to very challenging health needs of patient cohorts such as the homeless, Roma and International Protection applicants is now ready for scaling as a national solution,” said Prof Martin Curley, director of the Digital Health Ecosystem at Maynooth University’s Innovation Value Institute (IVI).

“We are one of the few remaining countries with no centralised electronic health records. 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. Because the solution is primarily open-sourced based, it is far more cost efficient and can be improved much more rapidly than similar commercial solutions.”

In an address to the Summer School, the OECD’s Head of Digital Health Eric Sutherland, identified Ireland as having the lowest health digital and data maturity of the OECD countries.

The HSE Social Inclusion Services has been piloting and operating an electronic health record and associated digital health services with clinicians and social workers, based on the Digital Health Spine model, to support people who are homeless, from the Roma community, from the Ukrainian refugee community as well as International Protection applicants, within the region of Dublin South, Kildare and West Wicklow.

The Digital Health Spine (DHS) is modelled on the UK’s NHS Spine, and can provide the architecture of digital health services and a platform to underpin a 21st century healthcare system in Ireland. At the core of the Spine is an individual electronic health record for every citizen in the country, implemented on the open source OpenEMR platform. This platform is certified by the US Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and in use by many clinicians and in locations around the world.

HSE Service Director of Social Inclusion clinical response teams in the region, Maxine Radcliffe, demonstrated the electronic records system to national and international health experts and clinicians attending the Digital Health Summer School.

“It is unimaginable that in 2024, patients and clinicians in Ireland do not have access to electronic health records as a standard part of care. We have implemented the Response for Vulnerable People (RVP) solution which is providing effective clinical care for over 15,000 people with complex care needs,” she said.

Prof Colin Doherty, Head of the Trinity College Medical School and consultant at St James Hospital, said: “It’s now abundantly clear that data saves lives. We urgently need to address the failure of this country to properly digitise our health system. No more excuses. No more delays. Let’s just do it.”

Chairman of the Irish Patients association Stephen McMahon added: “We are embarking on a great new project in Irish healthcare, to move and stay left, shift left and get 10-times better health system performance from that strategic decision. The core building block we need for this is an electronic patient health record.”

The Second International Digital Health Summer School at Maynooth University, featured Irish and global keynote speakers, including Dr Colm Henry, HSE Chief Clinical Officer, CHIME President Russ Branzell, NHS specialist Dr Amar Ahmed, and Director General at Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Dr Laura Burke among others.

A new Digital Health Association was also announced, modelled on the Harvard Grand Coalition model, to govern and orchestrate the ecosystem leading the ongoing development and deployment of the spine and associated platform. Gerard Corcoran was announced as the new secretary general with Prof Martin Curley serving as the inaugural President.

TechCentral Reporters

Read More: Digital Health Spine Living Lab e-health

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