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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

New digital strategy to unlock opportunities for health service improvements in NI

The Department of Health’s new digital strategy will streamline information sharing and optimise data use to improve services and create better outcomes for people. The ambitious new strategy aims to design, develop and deliver digital services over the next eight years that will support patients and users get the best care; better support staff through joined up systems and optimise the use of data to improve the safety, quality and experience of care.

Health Minister Robin Swann said:

“This new landmark strategy has the potential to change how the general public use health and social care services in Northern Ireland. We will use technology to unlock opportunities for improvements across the entire system. We will be able to provide more personalised care, including full visibility of health data and care pathways, moving towards precision medicine to identify the best approaches and care pathways for everyone. “People will be able to feel the real benefits of this strategy, including easier online communications, virtual assistance and consultations, as well as the ability to view their personal health record. Throughout COVID we saw the importance of digital interventions in our overall response and we want to harness the increased digital uptake experienced during the pandemic to deliver excellent services more sustainably.”

The Minister also said:

“While continued efforts have seen staffing numbers across the HSC increase, demand for services continues to outpace that expansion. This strategy illustrates the potential that exists for digital advances to play an important role in closing that gap.” The public are being asked to share their views on the strategy to help inform and shape how digital services are planned and implemented across health and social care organisations. The full strategy and survey are available on the Department of Health website.

The new Digital Vision and Strategy outlines a number of significant investments that are required to advance the digital health infrastructure and move the health and social care system closer to the required level of digital maturity. This includes the encompass programme, the flagship digital investment, which will create a unified health and care record for Northern Ireland. The encompass programme forms part of the major programmes portfolio, which also includes investments to improve diagnostic information management systems for both imaging and laboratories. The Department’s Chief Digital Information Officer, Dan West explained the three-phased approach that will be undertaken for digital transformation:

“We must first focus on implementing a series of foundational technologies such as the encompass programme. Once they have been successfully embedded we will begin to turn our attention to making the best use of our tools and products to meet the emerging challenges in our health and social care system. This focus will help us to deliver tangible improvements in our use of digital services and find new ways to work with our partners to serve the people of Northern Ireland.

“As our digital transformation matures - we will begin to invest more resources into innovation so that we remain ready to participate in the development and application of next wave of digital capabilities. This innovation will ensure we maintain a continuous improvement approach that ensures we improve our digital health and care services over the long term. Together we will deliver the quality of digital services that the people of Northern Ireland have asked for and deserve.”


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