Healthcare workers to get quick digital access to patients’ medical records under new national system

Government plans aimed at addressing ‘major deficiencies’ in current information system

The health service is to introduce a national electronic healthcare record (EHR) system that would allow healthcare workers to view patients’ medical information digitally, under plans being brought to Cabinet this week.

The State has consistently been criticised for its lack of progress in digitising the health service. In 2021, the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) highlighted “major deficiencies” in the current information system, with data on patient health usually being managed on different electronic systems or on paper-based systems, affecting people’s safety.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will on Tuesday bring a memo to Cabinet outlining the Digital Framework, a significant overhaul of the current health service information system. It will include a national patient app, the conclusion of a community health-based record system, and concluding procurement of a national shared care record.

The national shared care record would allow doctors and other healthcare workers to quickly view a patient’s current medications, allergies, recent blood test results and any relevant clinical documents, such as active treatment plans.


Doctors and nurses will then be able to to make speedy clinical decisions, informed by an overview of the patient’s medical history. It will also support continuity of care when patients are discharged from hospital, with patients also having access to their own healthcare information.

Costs for the new system are not outlined but a 10-year business plan in 2016 said implementing a national EHR system would amount to up to €875 million. Costs have risen since then, meaning the true figure is likely to be much higher.

Ireland is regarded as a laggard in Europe for digitisation and the introduction of electronic health records.

In January 2023, the HSE’s then head of digital transformation, Prof Martin Curley, resigned from his post, sayng his efforts to introduce new technology solutions were repeatedly blocked by senior administrators.

Speaking recently, Prof Curley said the Republic is “about 15 years behind most developed countries when it comes to digital health”.

Changes to how patient information is managed and shared is critical to the roll-out of Sláintecare, the Government’s 10-year plan to overhaul the health service and integrate health and social care across State services.

The pace at which the HSE will deliver these programmes is likely to depend on several critical factors, including the extent to which dedicated funding and resources become available.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times