Sunday 22 July 2018

Attend doctor clinic on your smartphone

Health tech to get upgrade in radical State plan

Stock photo
Stock photo
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Futuristic plans to allow patients to attend medical appointments on smartphones from the comfort of their own homes form a central plank of the Government's ambitious Project Ireland 2040 plan.

A €1bn cash injection in health service technology will also see every citizen given a medical record they will be able to access on phones and tablets.

The initiative will allow patients to track their medical records from the minute they enter the health service. "Everyone will have a health record they can follow around the health sector," a government source said.

The major technology investment will also see the introduction of advanced forms of tele-medicine which will allow patients and doctors interact without being in the same room.

It is hoped patients will be able to attend doctor appointments or receive urgent medical information from their own homes or nursing homes by speaking to a doctor on a computer screen or smartphone.

"ICT (Information and Communications Technology) systems such as electronic prescribing and tele-health will directly improve patient services allowing chronic disease to be managed in a more patient-centred environment at community level including in patients' homes," the National Development Plan states.

The plan also commits to spending €810m in primary care centres, mostly on X-ray and ultrasound machines for surgeries. The investment is aimed at reducing the number of patients presenting at hospitals.

The health spend was part of the Government's overall €116bn Project Ireland 2040 strategy which included commitments to major investment in housing, roads and schools.

However, the extravagant launch of the project, which included expensive backdrops, promotional videos, cheese boards and framed caricatures for each Cabinet minister, was criticised by the Opposition.

Several sources confirmed a substantial amount of the Government's controversial Strategic Communications Unit €5m budget will be spent on promoting Project Ireland 2040 in the coming year.

One government source estimated at least €1m will be spent on promotion. The same source said records show a Fianna Fail budget of €5m promoting the national development plan the party published while in government in 2007.

However, Dara Calleary, Fianna Fail spokesperson on public expenditure, was taken aback by the amount of money spent on the launch of Project Ireland 2040.

"The Government should be clear on how much was spent on the launch and how much will be spent in the coming year," Mr Calleary said.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin accused the Government of "elevating spin over substances".

"Harking back to the Fianna Fail approach of a decade ago, we were treated to an orgy of promotional videos, tweets, and ministerial hyperbole, rehashing projects that had already announced, and long-fingering the transformational projects needed to address the problems Ireland faces," Mr Howlin said.

A government spokesman said the project's aim is to put the "citizens of Ireland at the centre of public policy".

"Effectively communicating Project Ireland 2040 to the people of Ireland, ensuring they understand how the plan will affect their lives and their communities, is a key priority for 2018," he said.

Sunday Independent

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