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Northern Ireland can become an e-health leader says Health Minister

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Health Minister Simon Hamilton has today launched the e-Health and Care Strategy for Northern Ireland’s health and social care service.

The strategy sets out plans for the increased use of innovative technologies in the delivery of health and social care between now and 2020. It incorporates a package of new online initiatives to allow citizens to interact with the Health and Social Care system and to provide information on self-care and health and care services including the next steps towards the introduction of an Electronic Health and Care Record.

The Minister said: “Technology is advancing at an impressive rate all the time bringing with it incredible opportunities to help us transform how we deliver health and social care. I want Northern Ireland to be in the international elite in utilising new technologies to assist us in improving the quality and safety of health and social care and do so in ways that reduce bureaucracy for staff, make our system more efficient, better join up services and, above all, enhance the patient experience.

“Our new e-Health and Care Strategy is our vision of what is possible in Northern Ireland. At its heart is my commitment to move towards the development of an Electronic Health and Care Record (EHCR) for Northern Ireland. I have directed £1million from the Transformation Fund I announced yesterday to be used to progress a number of areas within the Strategy over the next 12 months, including preparatory work in the development of an EHCR.

“An EHCR has the potential to revolutionise the delivery of health and social care.

  • It can provide accurate, up-to-date and complete information about patients at every point of care;
  • It will increase the time that doctors, nurses, therapists and social workers have to spend with patients. A 15-minute increase in care time by reducing bureaucracy equates to over 1,000 additional care professionals;
  • It could reduce treatment and discharge delays in hospital, and contribute significantly to reducing length of stay;
  • It enables safer and more reliable prescribing of medication;
  • It will allow the use health analytics to improve population heath and care planning; and
  • It will help our Health and Social Care system to become ‘paperless’.

“Clearly this would be a very significant investment to make and that is why I have asked officials to ensure they continue to learn from best practice across the world as they develop the case for this investment but I believe there is a strong case for developing our own Electronic Health and Care Record as a key element of creating a world class Health Service. We have already experienced success with the introduction of the national award winning NI Electronic Care Record which is regularly being used by 20,000 Health and Care professionals and will provide a strong foundation upon which to build a fully integrated digital health and care record system for Northern Ireland.”

The Minister was speaking as he visited the Old Mill Surgery in Newtownards where he was able to learn more about new services allowing people to book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions online. He said: “It is clear that new digital services to allow people to book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions online are making a positive impact. These facilities make life easier for patients, giving them extra convenience and choice in how they interact with their GP surgeries. They also help to reduce administration for staff at the practice. 90% of GP practices will be able to offer these services by June, and all practices by the end of this year.”

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