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Telemedicine in surgeries and homes under new HSE plan

The unpublished Strategy for the Design of Integrated Outpatient Services 2016-2020 envisions a major shake-up in the design of outpatient services.

Utilisation of new technology forms a “core component of the programme”, Mr Oliver Plunkett, HSE National Lead for Outpatients Services, writes in the introduction to the Strategy, which has been seen by the Medical Independent (MI).

The plan would see telemedicine form a vital part of outpatient services, with greater access to technology in hospitals, general practice and also for patients in their homes.

However, the version of the report seen by MI contains no information on projected costs and savings.

“This enhanced infrastructure will include an integrated referral management system with decision support to GPs, electronic referral at the point of acute hospital contact, enhanced patient administration systems and eventually, electronic patient records,” it states.

An ‘Integrated Referral Management Centre’ will decrease the number of GP referrals to acute hospitals by offering GPs more options, including ‘virtual clinics’, advanced nurse practitioners, allied health professionals and services provided by acute hospitals.

“Our current outpatient service offers, in the main, only one option to the GP when the patient requires diagnostics and/or care not available in that practice. This single option is a referral to acute services.”

Under the structure due to be rolled-out over the next five years, “GPs will have enhanced access to diagnostics, one-stop-shops and advice delivered through their ICT systems or via telemedicine”.

Telemedicine will be available within integrated care services and eventually in homes.

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