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Interoperability projects in Ireland - FHIReland

Publication date: Mar 14, 2016

The Irish republic is working on a new strategy for ehealth. It has a mechanism in place to exchange HL7 version 2 messages between provider organizations and has recently embraced a series of strategic programmes around ehealth.


The National (Irish) Healthlink project started in 2007 and is based on the exchange of Hl7 version 2 XML-based messages between healthcare providers (hospitals/secondary care, GP practices). Over 10 million messages are exchanged annually, between 61 hospitals and 3500 GPs. Initially the GPs were offered access to the content of these messages on a web portal, the majority of messages is however imported into the GP practice systems nowadays. See Healthlink for additional details.

As far as I'm aware this is the only large scale deployment of HL7 version 2 using the XML syntax option. See Healthlink specifications for details, the main messages types are related to ADT, results reporting and order comms. Referral messages are also used, albeit solely for sending textual discharge letters.

Interview with Gemma Garvan, the Healthlink Project Manager.

eHealth Ireland

eHealth Ireland is a new strategy to promote the exchange of data between various healthcare providers in Ireland.

eHealth Ireland architecture

One of the core underpinnings of this architectural vision is the Access Channel (a.k.a. Integration) Layer. Gemma Garvan, the the national lead for the 'Access to Information' portfolio of ehealth Ireland, discusses some of the key aspects of this layer in the video below.

Interview with Gemma Garvan, the the national lead for the 'Access to Information' portfolio of ehealth Ireland.

We recently held a 1-day FHIR workshop in Dublin, covering the core aspects of FHIR - first a 1-hour management summary, followed by a workshop the rest of the day. One of the example use-cases was related to the introduction of the IHI (Individual Health Identifier) in Ireland, and the creation of a central Patient registry for the IHI.

FHIR Patient resource for IHI

Note the use of both standard extensions (birthplace and nationality) as well as national extensions (scanned written signature, all known names of the mother). SAFE is an assurance level, SAFE 2 is assigned if in-person verification of the identity of this person has taken place. This maps to a meta security tag.

All in all there was significant interest in using FHIR in various upcoming projects - reason for a new FHIR pun: FHIR in Ireland, that's FHIReland.


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Ringholm bv is a group of European experts in the field of messaging standards and systems integration in healthcare IT. We provide the industry's most advanced training courses and consulting on healthcare information exchange standards.
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Rene's Column (English) Rene is the Tutor-in-chief of Ringholm.