Saturday 25 January 2020

At least six hospitals not hit by software glitch affecting thousands of scans

Tony O'Brien Picture: Tom Burke
Tony O'Brien Picture: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

At least six hospitals have not been affected by the HSE software glitch that could see thousands of patients needing new scans and tests.

However, the situation at dozens of other hospitals remains unclear as the HSE continues to investigate the implications of a flaw in the system that has raised concerns over the recording of more than 20,000 patient scans.

Last night, it emerged that HSE boss Tony O'Brien has said that a company that deals with the software for the health service knew about the fault as far back as January 2016.

In a letter to other senior officials, he wrote that it is "of grave concern to me" that the company, Change Healthcare, didn't inform the HSE of the issue at the time.

The problem with the National Integrated Medical ­Imaging System (Nimis) software was spotted by a consultant radiologist in a regional hospital last week.

The software was introduced in 2011 and is used to archive scans such as MRIs and ultrasounds.

The flaw saw the computer programme omit the 'less than' symbol in reports when scans like MRIs and ultrasounds were being archived so, for example, if an artery was recorded as narrowing by 'less than 50pc', the file would have wrongly said the narrowing was 50pc.

The Irish Independent has established that the hospitals of the St Vincent's Healthcare Group in Dublin do not use the software affected by the glitch. A spokesperson said that includes St Vincent's University Hospital and the Private Hospital in Ballsbridge, as well as St Michael's Hospital in Dún Laoghaire. The HSE also last night confirmed University Hospital Galway did not use the software.

Cork University Hospital and Mercy University Hospital previously moved quickly to reassure their patients that their scans were not affected.

The HSE last night did not say how many of its other hospitals had been hit by the software problem. According to reports last night, HSE director general Mr O'Brien said that US-based Change Healthcare sent the HSE a software update last August to resolve the problem with the 'less than' symbol but the HSE wasn't made aware that the 'patch' was for this purpose.

A statement from Change Healthcare said patient safety drives all of the company's work.

It added: "we are working hard to understand exactly what happened in this case.

"We are working with the HSE to address the issue.

"An internal investigation is currently underway in Change Healthcare to establish exactly what happened.

"When our internal investigation is complete we will provide further formation as soon as possible thereafter."

Patients face an anxious wait to find out if their scans have been affected and whether they need to be retested or referred for further treatment.

The HSE has stressed that the expert advice is that there is "a relatively low clinical risk to patients" but it will contact patients if concerns arise about their cases.

While the HSE investigation - which may take up to two months - continues, any patients with concerns have been advised to contact their doctor.

Irish Independent

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