€36m IT system has ‘positive impact’ on hospitals

A number of doctors involved in the clinical validation of an IT system that cost €35m and has so far accrued around €1m in additional consultancy fees said it has had “a positive impact on the hospitals who have deployed it”.

The Maternal and Newborn Clinical Management System (MN-CMS), designed to improve mother-and-baby care, was rolled out in Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) before Christmas, after a six-month delay, followed by University Hospital Kerry in March. It has been criticised by GPs for the absence of a digital link with their IT systems, despite GPs and maternity hospitals operating a shared-care model.

However, hospital doctors involved in its rollout have written to the Irish Examiner to say that “while no service or system is perfect, the MN-CMS system has brought about improvement in management of patient information, patient safety and the communication between clinical teams”.

They say “it has led to standardisation of information collection and in the future will lead to standardisation of care”.

The doctors include Dr Michael Robson, consultant obstetrician, National Maternity Hospital and clinical director of the MN-CMS programme; Professor Richard Greene, consultant obstetrician, CUMH; and Dr Brendan Murphy, consultant neonatologist, CUMH, all of whom are involved in the rollout of the new system. HSE chief information officer, Richard Corbridge, and the CEO of Ehealth Ireland, Fran Thompson, are also signatories.

Referring to the lack of a digital link to GP IT systems, the letter says while integration “was originally planned to coincide with the initial deployment of the system”, it proved “more complex than originally thought from a technical perspective”. Ultimately, a decision was taken “by the steering group” to postpone integration of the two systems prior to the go-live in CUMH.

However, they say there is a solution in sight with the development of a messaging project via Healthlink, an electronic messaging service that allows secure transmission of clinical patient information between hospitals, healthcare agencies and GPs.

The letter says integration between the GP and hospital systems in the Cork region is due to commence on October 31.

“Following successful sign off of the integration, it will be deployed to all GPs interacting with the MN-CMS system,” it says.

They describe the MN-CMS as a “pathfinder project” — a project that aims to develop shareable models of good practice, albeit one that other hospitals can hope to improve on within their own institutions.

The letter says while many countries have attempted to develop an all-encompassing system, “nobody has (to our knowledge at least) successfully achieved this, certainly not in the provision of maternity and neonatal care”. The letter says while the electronic health record is “primarily about documentation and communication of mother and baby clinical information” it is also about including “the relevant stakeholders” and most importantly, the woman and her family.

“We would like to reassure the public that all of this has always been in the mind of the National Project Board and we feel that consistent progress has been made in this regard.”


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