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A HSE spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI) it is aware of the widespread use of WhatsApp groups by doctors across the Irish health system. The Executive has data protection and privacy concerns regarding the current use of such software by doctors.
“We have recently sought approval to procure a suitable solution, as we recognise that this type of communication is emerging as an important tool for clinicians,” said the spokesperson.
“The tender will seek a solution that allows healthcare organisations to meet their data protection and confidentiality obligations. The tender documentation has not yet been finalised and will be published on eTenders when it is.”
The HSE’s current security policy recommends “no transmission of patient data through such software [like WhatsApp]”.
Last month, Minister for Health Simon Harris announced the appointment of Prof Martin Curley as HSE Chief Information Officer (CIO). Specialist Registrar in Neurosurgery and former IMO President Dr John Duddy said the creation of an instant messaging service by the HSE should be on the agenda of the new CIO.
“The use of WhatsApp is ubiquitous amongst NCHDs now. I’d say every team or rota group around the country has one,” Dr Duddy told MI.
“While WhatsApp is encrypted, it is clear that none of these publicly-available social media platforms are completely secure. Secure healthcare messaging apps are widely used in the US and there’s no reason why the new HSE CIO couldn’t introduce one of these to the Irish health service.”