HIQA reveals new ID numbers for patients

An Individual Health Identifier will be a unique, non-transferable, lifetime number assigned to those who use health and social care services in Ireland.

The purpose of the number, according to HIQA, will be to accurately identify the patient and provide the correct type of health care needed.

Patient’s name, date of birth, sex, address and nationality will be accessible to health services through the Individual Identifier.

HIQA said there will be no personal data or medical records stored under the new standards.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said: “The Individual Health Identifier will be a major step forward in modernising our health service. It will allow us to follow patients and staff as they move through the health service in a way we currently can’t.

“This will improve patient safety, reduce duplication and errors, and give us a huge amount of new data that we can use to make services more efficient and improve planning.”

HIQA’s Acting Director of Health Information, Rachel Flynn, said that individual numbers will allow for eHealth, which is planned to be launched after the Individual Identifiers come into force.

“Individual health identifiers are the cornerstone of eHealth systems and are key for implementing electronic health records and eHealth solutions such as ePrescribing.”

The health identifiers operator, which will be a business unit of the HSE, will have to set up two National Registers: The National Register of Individual Health Identifiers, and the National Register of Health Services Provider Identifiers that store identifier numbers and all associated identifying information.

Richard Corbridge, chief information officer of the HSE said: “The HSE has built the infrastructure required to deliver the Individual Health Identifiers at a national level; this can be made live once the final elements of legislation are formalised and a Privacy Impact Assessment is published.”

Currently, patients are given a different number in every health or social case service that they use.

However critics of the new system say it’s like patients are being barcoded.

The HSE will be trialing the use of Individual Health Identifiers in clinical information systems throughout this year.