New ID number will track patients in health service
Patients using health and social care services in Ireland are to be issued with a unique identity number which will last for their lifetime.
The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) has published new standards in relation to the introduction of 'individual health identifiers' (IHI) in Ireland.
The new system will be piloted in three areas this year, and benefits include improved accuracy in identifying patients and their medical records, according to Hiqa.
A business unit within the HSE will manage the roll-out of the IHI numbers. The HSE has begun to "build the necessary infrastructure to implement the identifier in Ireland and is currently conducting a privacy impact assessment, to ensure privacy risks are addressed," a spokeswoman said.
"The cost of implementation will be covered within existing resources," she added.
Once implemented, Ireland will be the first country in the world to have a single IHI across health and social care.
"Other countries have different IDs for different services - for example community services, social services and health services," the spokeswoman added.
No medical or clinical information will be stored on the health identifier record.
Hiqa's acting director of health information, Rachel Flynn, told the Irish Independent that there were a number of reasons why PPS numbers could not be used - including that they are used in the private sector for people who are in employment.
"The PPS number was set up for public services," she said.
"We looked at this very carefully. Basically, what it comes down to is, we need a number that transcends both the public and private sector - and the PPS number doesn't do that."
She added that IHIs are essential in ensuring patient safety and improving the sharing of healthcare information between healthcare practitioners.
The HSE will trial their use in three clinical areas this year: the epilepsy electronic patient record, one multi-GP general practice, and the electronic medical record within a hospice.
The health identifier record is considered personal data within the meaning of the Data Protection Acts, and must be treated accordingly.