HSE forgets to link maternity system to GPs

A €35m IT system designed to improve care for mothers and babies and cut down on paperwork has created more work for staff and more room for error because of a failure to link it up with GP IT systems.

Cork University Maternity Hospital

The oversight means the electronic health record in the hospital and the electronic record held by family doctors cannot ‘talk’ to each other — even though GPs and maternity hospitals operate a shared-care model for mums-to-be.

Sources told the Irish Examiner this “digital gap” had resulted in significant duplication, requiring double entry of information when resources are seriously overstretched, increasing the risk of human error.

It means information gathered during antenatal visits — for example, blood pressure, blood test, or urine test results — has to be entered both manually on a paper chart and electronically by staff working in both Cork University Maternity Hospital and University Hospital Kerry, where the new IT system, the Maternal and Newborn Clinical Management System (MN-CMS) has been rolled out.

The Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), while supportive of system, has raised its concerns with Niall Sinnott, HSE delivery director for primary care IT programmes.

The group said that, before the MN-CMS was launched in Cork last year, “ICGP representatives identified that there was no facility to communicate between GP records and the hospital system”.

“The ICGP received assurances that a resolution of this problem would be achieved within six months, and are critical of the ongoing delays.”

Cork-based GP Frank Hill, who is involved with the College of General Practitioners at GP IT level, said it was only when the system was about to go live that GPs asked: “How is this going to work?”

“There was an acceptance that you needed a form of linkage between the two systems — but it doesn’t appear to have been in the spec,” said Dr Hill. “So now they have to go back and retrofit, which never works very well.”

Conor O’Shea, ICGP national co-ordinator for the GP IT group, said while they believed a solution is in sight — testing is under way to make the two systems compatible — those driving the MN-CMS had acknowledged mid-launch the oversight “wasn’t their finest hour”.

Dr Hill said the mistake was that the system was developed for maternity hospitals “when it should have been developed for maternity services”.

He said pregnant women should continue to bring paper charts to antenatal visits and make sure they were completed and this should “work fine”.

The Irish Examiner asked the HSE why the MN-CMS was launched with no facility to communicate with GP IT systems and who was responsible for the oversight.

A spokeswoman said the “relevant contact” was “unavailable this week”.

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