The new children’s hospital will use an €85m electronic chart system that will not be compatible with some key hospitals treating the same patients before or after.
It means that after the €1.73bn hospital project is finally finished, it will not initially be possible to transfer the electronic files of newborn babies being referred from some maternity hospitals to the new children’s hospital beside St James’s Hospital in Dublin.
It also means the new children’s hospital will run on a completely different electronic healthcare record system to the existing general acute hospital at St James’s.
At the moment, more than 40pc of women giving birth in Ireland and 45pc of the country’s neonatal intensive care cots have their charts on a system called the Maternal and Newborn Clinical Management System (MN-CMS).
The MN-CMS, which is run by a company called Cerner, is already in place at the Rotunda and the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, Cork University Maternity Hospital and University Hospital Kerry.
There are plans to roll it out to all 19 maternity units as part of a plan to have one national maternity chart.
An electronic patient record system by Cerner is also currently in place at St James’s Hospital, which became the first digital general acute hospital in the country in 2018.
But Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) has confirmed that last year it procured a company called Epic to develop its electronic healthcare record for the new, fully digital hospital. Epic is a rival company to Cerner.
A spokesperson for CHI said that the children’s hospital’s digital charts would “in time” be compatible with systems used at maternity hospitals, but declined to say how long after the hospital’s opening this would be.
“This is the national long-term plan. However, at this stage the electronic healthcare record (EHR) for our new children’s hospital will encompass CHI at Tallaght, CHI at Temple Street, CHI at Connolly and CHI at Crumlin, which is a significant project,” the spokesperson said.
“We anticipate interoperability between the two systems that will allow the viewing of relevant patient data in a secure manner.
“CHI has engaged with other hospitals in the UK that have enacted such connectivity between the two vendors in question. However, the focus of CHI at this time is on the implementation of the Epic EHR in time for the opening of the new children’s hospital,” they added.
It is not yet known how, before the two systems are interoperable, patient files will be shared if a baby is transferred from a maternity hospital to the new children’s hospital.
Medical experts have said that one of the flaws with MN-CMS, the system currently used for many births in Ireland, is that the charts can become very lengthy and unintelligible when printed out.
Sinn Féin’s health spokesman David Cullinane said it was a “mistake” to use a system that would not be compatible with all relevant hospitals by the time the new children’s hospital opens.
“It would be a concern that there wouldn’t be full interoperability,” he said.
“That is what the Department of Health and the HSE has committed to.
“We’ve had the starting point for the new system going in now, even from the get-go that they haven’t ensured that there was full interoperability with all maternity hospitals. Now, that’s a mistake.”