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Pandemic exposed urgent need for unique patient number

17th National Health Summit, virtual conference, 10 February 2021

The roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine and the current test and trace system may help the development of a unique patient identifier, the HSE CEO Mr Paul Reid recently told the National Health Summit.

Agreeing that the patient identifier system is needed, Mr Reid told online delegates that the HSE’s response to the pandemic will mean “we will be in a much stronger position now to have a single set of information for the patient or the member of the public who uses our [vaccine or test and trace] services”.

During a separate session, Prof Mary Horgan, President of the RCPI, told the virtual conference that Ireland is regarded as an international centre of digital innovation. She said we “should be leveraging on that expertise to have a unified approach that would be helped by using a unique number”.

“Like the PPSN, no different than the social security number they have in the United States. I know there may be a GDPR issue around that, but this is an issue that must be absolutely solved.

“Something as simple as a unique identifier would certainly help us when patients are transferred from the hospital into the community and vice-versa. It would strengthen our public health infrastructure.”

Mr Tony Canavan, CEO, Saolta University Health Care Group, said it was an issue “for many years”, but no solution has been implemented. However, he expressed hope the vaccination process might quicken the creation of a unique patient identifier system.

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