Advancing a Digital Healthcare Future for Ireland

The evolving challenges faced by healthcare systems from increased demand for healthcare, to patients with complex conditions, and the need to react to the COVID-19 pandemic, have placed greater impetus to develop health information systems and expand eHealth. In an event jointly organised by the ESRI and Microsoft Ireland, academic, industry and policymaking leaders will discuss the advancement of digital healthcare systems in Ireland and internationally.

At the event, Dr Brendan Walsh will discuss new ESRI research undertaken with support from Microsoft Ireland. This research examines the current health information system and data landscape in Ireland and considers features of health information systems internationally that could be implemented in Ireland. This research highlights the implementation of a national individual health identifier, a national electronic health record, and a structured health data infrastructure as key goals for the Irish healthcare system. Such aspirations will require continued investment, training of the healthcare workforce as well as supporting digital health literacy among the public. Privacy protections for data subjects and cybersecurity provisions must underpin data infrastructure and this should be well communicated with the public.

The event will also draw on knowledge from Professor Andre Dekker (Maastricht University) who will discuss important aspects of digital healthcare systems and health data infrastructures in Europe. Dr Darach Ó Ciardha, a Dublin-based GP and Assistant Professor in Primary Care (Trinity College Dublin) will discuss the use of technologies in providing GP care during COVID-19. Yvonne Goff and Emmet Carolan from the HSE, Elena Bonfiglioli and Dr Frank O’Donnell from Microsoft, and Eoin O’Reilly (EY) will highlight how digital and cloud-based solutions have proved vital in the Irish healthcare systems response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Robert Watt, Secretary General of the Department of Health will bring the conference to a close with concluding remarks.

Professor Alan Barrett, CEO ESRI said, “The ESRI is delighted to be collaborating with Microsoft Ireland in co-hosting this event. Economists internationally have written much about increasing costs in healthcare provision but cost containment in the context of care improvements have been elusive. Technological innovation offers one possible route and this conference seeks to explore those possibilities”.

Elena Bonfiglioli, Business Leader Health and Life Sciences, Microsoft EMEA said, "The Covid-19 emergency has highlighted just how critical high quality, secure and flexible health information systems are to delivering top end health care to citizens - in Ireland and elsewhere. New digital solutions like cloud-based data platforms, healthcare Bots, virtual visits and expanding eHealth options have been accelerated and have shown how digital empowers health professionals who are facing a new wave of demands. From a patient perspective, those that have experienced, for instance, the convenience, safety, and privacy of digital care delivered in the living room, they don't want to go back."