2013-healthcare-informatics-ireland-logoThe Healthcare Informatics Society of Ireland (HISI) brings together computer professionals working in healthcare and healthcare professionals interested in computing. We spoke to Mary Cleary, Deputy CEO and Michael Tighe, Programmes Executive, to find out more about HISI.

Almost all those working in the health system have an interest in how IT is used, hence bringing together healthcare and computer professionals. The spread of IT and medical devices requires healthcare professionals to have better and better IT skills. The use of IT to manage more and more aspects of healthcare, such as appointment booking systems, bed management and imaging means that there is a huge amount of IT infrastructure. Coupled with all the traditional IT systems, such as HR management and payment systems, IT is vital to the smooth running of health services.

HISI exists to promote the value and efficiencies that good health IT can bring to better decision-making at both a clinical and commissioning level, which will improve patient outcomes and allow more time and resources to be allocated to frontline services. In essence, HISI is trying to get to the future faster! More formally, its objectives are:

  1. To develop and disseminate knowledge of the use of informatics in health care;
  2. To promote research and education in health care informatics; and
  3. To participate internationally with bodies of similar interests.

How does HISI operate?

In practical terms, HISI works through a range of networks, to support both IT and healthcare professionals. These networks include the HISI Nurses and Midwives Group, the HISI Academic Network, which provides bursaries for health informatics research, and supports R&D and training for eHealth professionals, and the more informal HISI Suppliers Group, which supports innovative collaboration between IT suppliers and the Irish Department of Health and Health Service Executive.

HISI also runs a number of practical projects to help reduce bottlenecks in health IT in Ireland. For example, one of its current projects is the Health Informatics Training System (HITS). This is a training and certification solution for all healthcare workers, developed to help healthcare employees who need a clear understanding of the technologies used in this sector and their contribution to administrative and clinical best practice. The mHealth for Healthcare Professionals programme was developed to help educate healthcare professionals about the way in which mobile healthcare systems (mHealth) can improve both patient access and quality of care.

But perhaps HISI’s biggest challenge, and certainly the one of which it is most proud, is the organisation of eHealth Week, which we wrote up in May. HISI provided liaison and project management for this High Level eHealth Conference organised by the European Commission and the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, together with the World of Health IT Conference & Exhibition(WoHIT)) organised by HIMSS Europe.

eHealth Week was the single biggest event of the Irish Presidency, and involved over 2,800 delegates. In terms of business for Ireland, it brought in over €3.5m in business tourism alone. The event strengthened partnerships at home and abroad and since then, HISI has continued to work with external partners on standards and on the EU/US Memorandum of Understanding for Workforce Development and Interoperability.

HISI aimed to design a programme for eHealth Week that would complement the Presidency’s overarching themes, with sessions that provided a local context and highlighted eHealth activities and initiatives in Ireland. The more recent HISI Stakeholders Summit, in November 2013, gave delegates and members the chance to hear more on these developments and to discuss opportunities for the future. Presentations focussed on the potential of eHealth in health care delivery, well-being, innovation and prosperity with an emphasis on collaborative working relationships on a national and cross border basis, developing and marketing innovative eHealth products and services, and in creating the enabling environment and infrastructure.

A simple message

But despite all their pride in having worked on eHealth Week, the take-home message from both Mary Cleary and Michael Tighe is a very pragmatic one. They would like health service organisations to consider the merits of improving the IT skills of their employees. In particular, they suggest that a partnership approach is the only viable place to start solving the health and financial problems of the Irish healthcare system, and that application of the right technologies could really help. HISI, they believe, is helping this to happen faster.

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