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Digitalisation of Medical Records estimated at €1.8 billion, answers Minister for Health

Healthcare February 26, 2024

In a reply to a recent parliamentary question, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly estimated that full digitalisation of Irish patients’ medical records could cost €1.8 billion.

Ireland has lagged significantly behind its European counterparts in providing electronic access to citizens’ medical records. Irish patients’ medical records are still largely paper based, and access to physical records can be an arduous process.

Minister Donnelly’s estimate of €1.8 billion has been contested by former HSE Head of Digital Transformation, Professor Martin Curley who in a recent social media video claimed that a cutting-edge phone based electronic system could be implemented at a fraction of the figure provided by Minister Donnelly.

Over the past number of decades private industries as the banking and insurance sectors have invested heavily in moving towards a paperless model.

Irish citizens are increasingly familiar with and accepting of digitisation, particularly since the pandemic, with more and more consumers switching to cashless transactions and card tapping.

Email has long become the accepted modus of written communication, replacing post in most industries.

Businesses increasingly rely on Teams and Zoom to speak to customers and clients.

Mobile phone technology has displaced landlines. Texts have been in proliferation since the late 1990s, and texting has evolved into social-based messaging apps such as Whatsapp.

Most citizens and businesses now have at least one social media account. The average TikTok user spends more than 45 minutes a day on that platform alone.

Camera and video technology is everywhere we look. CCTV type monitoring is no longer the preserve of businesses and the most insecure, front door and porch cameras such as Blink, Bark and Ring are now found in houses and apartments across the country.

The very vehicles we drive, and the phones and watches we carry and wear, are insatiable data collecting monsters. Our phones can tell us where we have been, with most users unwittingly agreeing to allow location tracking which can log every journey we make.

Modern cars and vehicles can provide an enormous amount of telemetry. Even the parking and collision sensors can provide readable data.

Meeting a friend at a pub you’ve never visited before? Your phone can show you pictures of the venue, inside and out, and can plot directions for you to guide you there. You can even inspect a 3d street view of the building and neighbourhood as you make your way.

The rate of data generated by humanity is accelerating. It is expected that by next year, more data will be generated by humanity in the period 2003 to 2025 than in all recorded history prior to then.

Quite a lot of information for investigators to sift through then.

The challenges posed to investigators by this digital explosion is a central theme of The Regulatory Investigations Online Conference in March 2024. Exploring this theme are digital forensic experts from KPMG, Rory Byrne and Thomas McCarthy.

Every investigator now needs to confront digital evidence, know how to find it, sort the wheat from the chaff, harvest it, secure it, and present it in an intelligible manner to a court.

In the meantime, the move towards 100% digitisation of medical records continues at a glacial pace. Increasingly health care practitioners are voting with their feet and using digital record keeping through their own initiative, but the paper based, hard copy of many health record stubbornly clings on.

La Touche Training provide a number of record-keeping training courses such as:

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