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News & Press: News

eHealth Ireland & Northern Ireland Connected Health Ecosystems provided a great start to 2018

18 January 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Heather Smith
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eHealth Ireland & Northern Ireland Connected Health Ecosystems - 2nd Joint Gathering members of the ECHAlliance International Connected Health Ecosystem Network

Exploring north and south cross border collaboration opportunities & the impact of the GDPR

The 2nd Joint Gathering was held in Dublin Ireland, on Friday 12th January 2018. The Ecosystem attracted nearly 300 registrations, offered 6 workshops and provided a platform for over 30 speakers. The event was hosted by the Adapt Centre, at Trinity College Dublin (TCD). Visitors attended from Denmark, Switzerland France, Estonia, Wales, Slovenia, Greece, Scotland, England, as well one lady from Australia who happened to be in Ireland at the time.

For the first time we scheduled 2 early morning workshops, on European Funding (H2020)andMaking Interoperability Work’, these proved so successful that we underestimated the size of the workshop rooms which resulted in standing room only. Lesson learnt!

The opening session highlighted the importance of cross border collaboration within Ireland and the need for real interoperable health systems, as expressed by Yvonne Goff, CCIO HSE. Mary McCarron, Professor of Ageing & Intellectual Disability, TCD praised for their work in promoting innovation and better healthcare. Mary also reminded all stakeholders to keep patients at the centre of their work (we agree, that’s what we promote through the Ecosystem Network!)

    We believe this is a first for any ecosystem gathering, in that the audience was addressed by a special surprise guest ‘Stevie the Robot’ who explained he is working to support people live independently and in their own homes for longer. Robots, a prophecy of SF writers for more than a century are quickly becoming a part of our everyday lives.         

Keynote speakers on ‘Opportunities for Cross Border Collaboration in Healthcare’; Muiris O’Connor, Assistant Secretary General, Department of Health Ireland and Mark Lee, Director of Primary Care, Department of Health Northern Ireland.


Muiris O'Connor outlined that there has been significant activity in cross-border health and social care activity over the last decade.  Collaboration takes place on a wide range of health and social care issues including health promotion co-operation in areas such as alcohol, tobacco and obesity.  Suicide prevention initiatives and food safety. Cancer patients from Donegal have access to radiotherapy in the North West Cancer Centre at Altnagelvin Area Hospital. As part of the roll-out of the All-Island Congenital Heart Disease Network, since 2015, Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin has been providing cardiac interventions for children from Northern Ireland.  Some of the best examples of practical public sector cross border cooperation are in the field of health and social care.

    Mark Lee outlined how North and South face similar challenges of the ageing populations, lifestyle challenges and adapting to emerging technologies. Mark was hugely encouraged with the levels of interest in North-South collaboration and he stressed that to make services more sustainable in Ireland they must be underpinned by a partnership approach.  He described Northern Ireland as being in a ‘goldilocks’ position for developing eHealth, namely the population of two million was not too large and not too small. He said there were already areas of very good co-ordination with the South such as ambulance services and planning for major emergencies and he described the importance of cross border initiatives with the upcoming departure of Northern Ireland from the EU.


The session “Addressing the challenges of delivering healthcare innovation” was opened by Jane Carolan, Interim CIO & National Director Health Business Services, HSE Ireland. 

Jane presented the knowledge and information plan for the development of HSE from the perspective of the opportunities to improve the delivery of care and services that are created through the use of new technologies. An interesting part of the speech was her emphasis on culture, as the strongest force in shaping our health and care in the future. Essentially she placed people before technology, a very important message that is often forgotten in the world of digitalization. She posed the question “What if our culture could be our advantage”? 


Jane was followed by Liam McIvor, CEO, Business Services Organisation, Health & Social Care Northern Ireland. Liam presented several projects introduced into Northern Ireland recently.

He spoke of the regional mortality and morbidity system that started in 2016, and of the Radiology Order Communications system one of his organisation’s most recent projects. Liam emphasised the need to provide consistent and reliable service that keeps improving, as it is becoming accepted throughout the region.     



Fran Thompson, the Director for Engagement and Delivery, HSE Ireland, presented on how HSE innovative solutions are being tailored to the needs of the population by using UX, a field knowledge most often used in modern web and app design, however now seen more and more in clinical environments too.

He presented the EHR Persona Development project, where new systems are designed with the use of a variety of user personas and use cases, not just on the patient side, but also on the side of healthcare providers. This wide approach ensures new apps, services and products are ready for real world use by real people in real life.


Brian O’Connor ECHAlliance Chair, provided an update on the ECHAlliance International Ecosystem NetworkECHAlliance helps health and care systems internationally by fostering cooperation through establishing a platform for networking and information sharing within and between over 25 ecosystems across Europe and beyond. 

Both the eHealth Ireland and Northern Ireland Ecosystems are very active within the network and recently presented on their work in Brussels. Brian suggested that delegates look at the ECHAlliance website to understand the many exciting activities and opportunities underway.


Following the networking session, Prof Dave Lewis from the Adapt Centre Dublin, provided a interesting input on the very trendy but also feared topic of data sharing and free data flows in the light of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming to play on May 25th this year.

To some the topic might look as another hyper-regulation from the EU, however this biggest change in privacy data protection in the last twenty years has lots of provisions protecting all EU individuals and with more transparency and an obligatory data portability also much better new opportunities for improved data portability and collaboration between various health and care stakeholders everywhere.


Continuing with the topic of ‘Data Sharing’ Bleddyn Rees, Digital Health Society (DHS) Task Force Leader presented on the ‘Legal Framework for the free flow and the secondary use of Health Data’. Bleddyn encouraged all gathered to join the DHS and get involved.



Four fast paced inputs on ‘Cross Border Collaboration Projects in Action’ showcased the great ongoing work, including:

  • Peter Connolly, HSE Ireland,
  • Dr Paul Beaney, Ulster University,
  •  Alan Connor NHS24,
  • Róisín Doherty, HSE Ireland, Individual Health Identifier 

Our international speaker was Piret Hirv, Adviser, E-services & Innovation, Ministry of Social Affairs, Estonia who provided and interesting insight on ‘How to deliver the promise of eHealth – “The Estonian Way“. 

Three numbers presented gave a very bold picture of where Estonia is today and where all other countries are only about to come in the next years, 99% of all public and state services are available online, 99% of prescriptions are digital and 100% of citizens have an electronic health record.  Piret said that practically everything is digitised in Estonia already with a few interesting omissions, such as marriage or divorce.


The next important inputs were provided by Gearoid Mooney, Research and Innovation Division Manager, Enterprise Ireland and by Mark Ennis, Chair, Invest Northern Ireland.  Both speakers presented on ‘Industry Support and funding opportunities to propel innovation’. 


The messages delivered a real opener about the many opportunities available from both organisations and also the ongoing collaboration between EI and INI.  We encourage readers to take time to review the speakers slides for more detail.


The final plenary session was a ‘Q&A panel with Senior Healthcare Leaders’ including speakers Yvonne Goff, Jane Carolan, Liam McIvor and Sean Donaghy, Director eHealth & External Collaborations, Health & Social Care NI. 

The panelists answered a wide range of questions to the packed room and delegates appreciated the opportunity to hear from such a high level panel.

    Following the networking lunch delegates were offered four parallel workshops including Informed consent ‘Informed consent for sharing your eHealth information’, ‘The Digital Health Society’, ‘eHealth Ireland EHR & Encompass NI EHCR’, and ‘ePharmacy & Medicines Optimization’.
    Thank you to everyone who attended and we look forward to a 2018 with great enthusiasm and look forward to meeting you again soon.

View the Speakers Presentations Here

View the full flickr album here