Belfast Telegraph

Bid to forge health links with US

Patients' records could be shared between Northern Ireland and New York as part of a proposal to improve health care and research.

Electronic files may be used to operate clinical trials of treatments on selected groups on both sides of the Atlantic. Research using the data could help boost innovations in medical care in the NHS.

Northern Ireland has a well-integrated healthcare system, which makes it easier to carry out pilot tests. New York has a much greater pool of potential patients, but both systems care for an increasingly elderly population with a higher prevalence of chronic disease.

Stormont Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "Linking up with New York in this manner is a very exciting prospect for Northern Ireland. It will strengthen our hand as we work to deliver more innovative, effective and efficient care."

Northern Ireland has already introduced an electronic records system which means a patient's details are readily available wherever in the health service they are needed. Previously paper files had to be passed between medical departments, making it easier for important information to be overlooked.

Now, for example, if a diabetic person is injured in a car accident anywhere in Northern Ireland, the emergency team will have full details of the victim's medical history.

Mr Poots is in the US for high-level talks about developing the collaboration with the New York Health Department.

He will meet the New York State Commissioner for Health, Dr Nirav Shah, in Manhattan to discuss enshrining closer working relationships and improving the delivery of health and social care.

Officials are preparing a proposal for an agreement on greater co-operation in developing hi-tech solutions to improve patient care and share knowledge.

New York already collaborates with 17 other US states.

Mr Poots said: "A common challenge on both sides of the Atlantic is to create electronic health records which would allow data to be shared with various providers in delivering services, both locally and internationally, and in furthering opportunities for clinical trials and research.

"It would be a tremendous opportunity if we can secure agreement to work directly with New York on this."

The minister will attend the New York eHealth Collaborative Digital Health Conference where he will meet Commissioner Shah. He will also visit the Northern Ireland for Connected Health stand at the conference.

During his two-day visit he will attend the headquarters of an advocacy organisation which sponsors research into autism.

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