Healthcare ICT Supplement in Sunday Business Post

Last year, I wrote a short post suggesting the Irish Healthcare system needed some positive stories surrounding the use of ICT. So it was with interest that I read through most of the articles in the Sunday Business Post  Healthcare ICT supplement last night.

It was good to see issues such as PPARS being discussed and dealt with head-on. The continuing impact of this project still reverbarates, and explains in part the 10 pages or so given to the Control and Sanction of HSE ICT Expenditure in the Comptroller and Auditor General Report for 2006.

Some good case studies were given on continuing work in the Mater and St James, and stalwart local  Irish companies  such as DMF Systems, Health One and dabl also had feature pieces.

On a personal note, it was also good to see that GP Messaging (which I project managed for a good number of years when it was a key project in HeBE) was singled out for praise by the HSE Director of ICT.

Medical tourism matchmaking site launches

New Irish web startup describe themselves as a matchmaking site for those interested in having medical procedures in other countries. Users sign up to the website and enter details of the procedure they want to have carried out and the country to which they wish to travel to.

The site then matches the prospective patient with a suitable clinic in their country of choice. Clever. Funding comes from the backers of Newbay, Propylon and Hostelworld.

The last one there is interesting – a straightforward business opportunity or a complement to core business?

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Irish Minister diagnosed with a tumour on live TV by surgeon watching programme

A very interesting case. Irish Junior Minister Conor Lenihan was remotely diagnosed as he appeared on the Irish current affairs programme Prime Time in late December, while discussing the legacy of Charles Haughey.

According to the interview he gave yesterday to Morning Ireland, a Consultant Surgeon (who wished to remain anonymous) rang the show asked to speak to the Minister, advising him to seek advice.

Sure enough, a tumour was removed in early January. In the audio interview, he mentions how though non-malignant, the early intervention ensured that nerves along the jaw-line were not damaged – potentially this could have led to a palsy on the left side of his face.

The actual progamme that spurred the diagnosis is here (about 4mins 50 seconds in)

This type of story makes me feel good.

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ATM access to Health Records

Last Week, I took a couple of photographs of the good and bad of ATM user interface design.

First, the bad – from the local Spar shop. I choose to withdraw €30 and got this response.

Poor design in action here. A few days later, at an Ulster Bank ATM, a more intuitive approach. After inserting the bank card (below), you are informed what notes are available.

Then I wondered – Ok, apart from the User Interface design issue – what’s the connection here? This morning, I came across an old post from Hans Oh discussing the Canadian Health System, and a quote from a tired sounding CIO on the difficulties associated with developing a regional or national EHR (electronic health record).

"You can’t walk up to the health ATM, stick your tongue in it and get a
health check. The ATMs have been pretty successful at showing how
somebody can get their balance anywhere in the world and draw money.
Health doesn’t work as simply as that."

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Patients and their search for online health answers

Steve Rubel highlighted an interesting health related item a couple of weeks back.

Pew Internet and American Life project released a study on how people search for health information online – one of the main points being raised was the fact that most people do not check the veracity/context of the results.

According to Rubel,

Clearly, people are turning to search for health information, ignoring
the source and then going online to find peers for further reassurance.
This represents a huge fundamental shift in healthcare. No longer do
the health professionals hold all the cards. The patient is empowered
with information that may very often be inaccurate, and they are basing
at least some of their decisions on it.

Irish Radio Station TodayFM had a brief interview with an Irish General Practitioner on the subject on friday evening last (Ronan Boland of He pointed out that that patients getting information online is nothing new, but of course was in no way a replacement for a consultation and diagnosis with a medical professional.

My first experience of this was in 1995, when hospital doctors were beginning to relate stories of  patients self-diagnosing and in some cases, pointing  medics to online resources. There has been much anecdotal evidence since, especially with rarer conditions, that patients are often very well-informed; the web has enabled research beyond the medical libraries and textbooks.

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Rate My GP

It seems like no profession can now escape the review of the population at large. got some profile last week, including radio interviews on saturday morning from the very media-shy Gerald Kean.

One can assume then that a similar rating system for the medical community cannot be far behind. A quick check for the domain shows that it has been taken by an IT consultancy – School & Office Support, based in Letterfrack.

More interestingly, the domain was snapped up by Cork-based GP, Dr Diarmuid Mulcahy (back in December ’05). According to a piece in the Irish Medical News, Mulcahy comments that such a site would be

"for both the benefit of the
profession as well as the patient, and would be fair and balanced. I
was very taken with the ratemyteachers site and felt the comments on it
were balanced. I don’t think doctors have anything to be scared of by
having a medical equivalent.."

Personally, I’m not so sure if we can equate the legal and medical professions in this context. My own perception would be that you build a relationship with your GP, and this relationship can last a lifetime. Legal advice on the other hand, for the vast majority of people – is pretty infrequent – and based on very little personal interaction.

However, I might suggest that this may be more similar to the way interaction between senior medical staff and patients occurs in a hospital environment?

This could get interesting…..

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