Safer Care for Patients in an Electronic Age

Date of publication:

The delivery of safer patient care in Ireland moved forward today with the publication of standards to increase the reliability and safety of electronic communication between GPs and healthcare services.

The General Practice Messaging Standards, published by the Health Information and Quality Authority, are technical standards for information systems that outline the way patient information, ranging from blood test results, diagnosis information, referrals and X rays, can be accurately and safely transferred between healthcare services.

"This is a significant development for patient safety in Ireland. Messaging standards provide the basis for ensuring that vital information about the patient is available when it is needed, thereby reducing the risk of adverse events for patients, reducing waiting times and speeding up the patient referral process" said Professor Jane Grimson, Director of Health Information with the Authority.

These standards, which provide the blueprint for the effective transfer and sharing of electronic patient information, are an essential tool in improving how healthcare providers use technology to benefit the quality and safety of patient care.

Once in place, the standards will prevent the need for unnecessary duplicate diagnostic testing and enable the faster diagnosis of disease, helping the patient experience their journey of care more quickly. In addition, these standards can help GPs free up more time to dedicate to the delivery of frontline care instead of having to allocate resources to administrative work which impacts directly on patient care.

Professor Grimson said: "Having these standards in place can lead to better healthcare outcomes for people and will be an essential way of supporting the delivery of safer patient care and can also reduce medical costs."

These standards detail the best way to communicate messages to and from GPs and hospital consultants, outpatient departments, X ray departments, laboratories, referral services and other GPs.

Developed following extensive consultation with healthcare experts and frontline practitioners, the standards can also reduce the likelihood of transcription errors and enable the faster, more accurate provision of care.

The Authority is recommending that these standards, which define the proposed structure for GP messaging, are the national standard for Ireland. Following approval by the Board of the Authority, the standards have been submitted to the Minister for Health and Children to be mandated and to assist in the development of national policy.

Further Information: 

Marty Whelan, Head of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement

01 814 7481 / 086 2447 623

Notes to the Editor: 

  • Benefits of the Standards to frontline healthcare providers (for example, GPs) include:
    • the more efficient and effective delivery of care by removing the need to wait for the exchange of paperwork, records etc. by having immediate access to online patient information
    • a reduction/removal of the need for duplicate and unnecessary repeat testing
    • earlier diagnosis and faster commencement of appropriate care
    • complete, accurate and searchable patient information at the point of care delivery.
  • The aim of the Authority’s standards is to prevent any potential misinterpretation of data and enable the adoption of a standardised messaging system for the appropriate and safe sharing of patient information and data in healthcare settings in Ireland
  • These standards were developed with input from a wide range of stakeholders including frontline healthcare providers, healthcare experts and decision-makers who will continue to be involved as we further develop the standards for implementation. A full list of those who took part in the development process can be found in Appendix 1 of the outline summary document
  • The Authority’s GPMS build on, and localise, the internationally recognised HL7 messaging standard, factoring in essential information on infrastructure already in place in Ireland and country-specific requirements
  • For an effective GP messaging standard, it is essential that both the sender and receiver of information are clear on the structure and meaning of the data. These standards provide guidance in this area and are intended to act as a resource for healthcare practitioners
  • Under the Health Act 2007, the Authority has responsibility for researching and making recommendations on the best use of health information within the system to increase patient safety and efficiency of care. The GPMS project falls under this mandate and had, as its core objective, an extensive analysis of international best practice in the area.