Critical condition for Irish healthcare?

This was the title of a recent piece from talking about current technology and IT usage in the Irish Healthcare system. It notes that during the recent General Election in this country, there were occasional thinly veiled references to "value for money" from public sector projects.

Whatever you can say about the opposition parties during the campaign, I wouldn’t agree that their references to these projects, and specifically PPARS, were thinly veiled – quite the opposite actually in that they were gunning for it for a long time before and during the campaign.

As the writer correctly highlights though – elections are all about simple messages; in this case more beds, more frontline staff…and feck the technology.

The mantra for IT in healthcare has not changed, and it is very simple – it "is a drive to remove or reduce paper from the workings of healthcare."

Unfortunately, this would have been the mantra from the business community 10+ years ago. They have since moved on to improving/redesigning processes and creating new business opportunities.

Health has a lot of catching up to do.

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Cult of the Amateur and Medicine…oops.

I can almost hear the howls of protest as the Irish Blogging community, if they did by chance hear the interview this morning with Andrew Keen, author of Cult of the Amateur; maybe not as loud as the howls from the Irish Medical community however. A medical student texting in to the programme claimed that over half of their class used Wikipedia as medical reference.

I’m really surprised that Ryan Turbridy would find this interesting – after all, he is a noted blogging and technology fan …8)


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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The end of H2HCare

From ENN

Bank of Ireland and Enterprise Ireland are nursing losses following the collapse of H2Hcare,
a Dublin software firm that had raised more than EUR2 million in
funding. H2Hcare was founded in 2000, and developed technology to
manage medical applications and patient records online. The firm was
wound up at a creditors meeting last Tuesday with debts of between EUR2
million and EUR2.5 million.

Enterprise Ireland event – Semantic Web for e-Health

Found out about this from Brian O’Malley of Enterprise Ireland last week – one of their Technology Club events.

Dr Stefan Decker of NUIG and DERI will present on the topic “Semantic Web for e-Health – a first assessment and opportunities ahead“

Should be an interesting morning – the guys from DERI have been pretty active in Semantic Web developments over the past number of years. They have another event on next week in Galway looking at social networks – nice to see they are throwing their eyes at health;

Hopefully they will going in to this with an background knowledge of the healthcare situation in Ireland with regard to the use of IT. So to often one attends events where the understanding of how things currently work versus how they might work in their  blue sky version leaves some shaking their heads.

Innovation with a dose of pragmatism sometimes hits the spot better…

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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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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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