Individual health identifiers will start appearing on electronic referrals by GPs as the final steps are being taken to establish the national database.
GPs can now refer patients to all acute hospitals electronically — more than 10,550 were received by hospitals in May, compared to 2,289 a year ago when the process started.
Patients will have a unique number for life that can be used by health service providers, both public and private, in communications about their care.
The HSE has reported that a final load of data is being inputted, and individual health identifiers will begin to appear on electronic referrals.
Over the coming months, healthcare systems will be connected so the number will start to become the single identifier for patients.
The HSE is responsible for two national registers: one for individual health identifiers and another for health services provider identifiers. Two central computers will manage the system.
The health identifier is aimed at reducing the likelihood of using the wrong medical record; having the wrong medicine prescribed, or being admitted for the wrong surgery.
It means that healthcare professionals can identify the person and access the relevant records at the right time.
The number is generated and assigned automatically to people’s medical records. Any personal data is private and will not be shared with anybody outside of the health and social care system.
It will identify the person and include a signature and photograph, together with a personal public service number, if any, but will exclude clinical information relating to the individual.
Personal data will include name, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, all former surnames, address, and nationality.
It can be used to identify the individual and to link their correct health records from different systems together showing their medical history.
Penalties will apply if records are used incorrectly. However, the Health Identifiers Act states that the data may be used for health promotion, public health, health service management, or research.
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