Edited and prepared by Oscar Michel, Masters in Journalism, DCU

Great interview with Rachel Flynn, HIQA‘s Director of Health Information and Standards. HIQA website here.

Describe the organisation…

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is the independent Authority established to drive high-quality and safe care for people using our health and social care services in Ireland. HIQA’s role is to develop standards, inspect and review health and social care services and support informed decisions on how services are delivered. HIQA’s ultimate aim is to safeguard people using services and improve the safety and quality of health and social care services across its full range of functions.

One area for which we have responsibility is setting standards for all aspects of health information and monitoring compliance with those standards. Health information plays a vital role in improving patient safety. Better information means better decisions and better, safer care. While information plays a vital role in improving patient safety, it is important that information is governed correctly and personal health information is protected.

Where are you based?

Our head office is in Cork, and we also have offices in Dublin and Galway.

When was the organisation launched?

HIQA was established in 2007, so this year marks our 10th anniversary.

What have been your biggest achievements to date?

Some of most important progress we have made in health information is the development of technical standards for the communication of health information between healthcare providers. The most recent standards that HIQA has published in this regard include:

HIQA is also responsible for developing information management standards to improve the quality and use of national health information. These include:

  • Information management standards for national health and social care data collections (Nov 2016)
  • Information governance and management standards for the Health Identifiers Operator (Jun 2015)

In addition, HIQA develops guidance in relation to gaps in the health information community. Some of the key guidance documents we have published are Guidance on Messaging Standards for Ireland, Overview of Healthcare Interoperability Standards and Guidance on Classification and Terminology Standards for Ireland.

What are your long-term plans in relation to health information?

Over the coming years, HIQA plans to provide leadership in defining the health information landscape in Ireland by influencing policy and legislation through engaging with informed and interested parties and developing recommendations; contribute to the development of the foundations required to make possible eHealth in Ireland and support progress with rolling out the national eHealth strategy through developing technical and information standards; and promote improvements in the quality of health information to underpin the delivery of safe care, informed decision-making, and monitoring, planning and regulation by HIQA.

To help inform our plans, we have launched a public consultation on the development of eHealth standards.This six-week consultation aims to elicit views on as to where eHealth interoperability standards are required and where the work of HIQA and the eHealth Standards Advisory Group (eSAG) should be targeted.

eHealth can enhance quality, accessibility and efficiency across all healthcare services through the secure, timely, accurate and comprehensive exchange of clinical and administrative data. To deliver these benefits, several key building blocks have to be put in place which can bring advantages in their own right and, together, provide the basis for building a robust eHealth infrastructure. One of these building blocks is a set of eHealth interoperability standards such as communication and terminology standards.

HIQA is committed to stakeholder consultation and values all feedback provided as part of its standards development process. The public, service users and service providers will have the opportunity to provide feedback and become involved in the future direction of standards development.

The closing date for receipt of comments is 5 pm on Friday 22 September 2017.

Anything else you’d like to add/we should have asked?

Information and communications technology (ICT) has a critical role to play in ensuring that information to drive quality and safety in health and social care settings is available when and where it is required. For example, it can generate alerts in the event that a patient is prescribed medication to which they are allergic. Further to this, it can support a much faster, more reliable and safer referral system between the patient’s general practitioner and hospitals.

Although there are a number of examples of good practice, the current ICT infrastructure in Ireland’s health and social care sector is highly fragmented with major gaps and silos of information which prevents the safe, effective, transfer of information. This results in people using the service being asked to provide the same information on multiple occasions.

In Ireland, information can be lost, documentation is poor, and there is over-reliance on memory. Equally, those responsible for planning our services experience great difficulty in bringing together information in order to make informed decisions. Variability in practice leads to variability in outcomes and cost of care. Furthermore, we are all being encouraged to take more responsibility for our own health and wellbeing, yet it can be very difficult to find consistent, understandable and trustworthy information on which to base our decisions.

As a result of these deficiencies, there is a clear and pressing need to develop a coherent and integrated approach to health information, based on standards and international best practice. A robust health information environment will allow all stakeholders, the general public, patients and service users, health professionals and policy makers to make choices or decisions based on the best available information. This is a fundamental requirement for a high reliability healthcare system.

Through its health information function, HIQA is addressing these issues and working to ensure that high quality health and social care information is available to support the delivery, planning and monitoring of services.

How do people get in touch with you?

We can be contacted at [email protected] or by calling 01 8147400.

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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