New health identification number for every individual

HSE says initiative will improve safety and reduce medical errors

Everyone in the State is to be given an individual health service identification number, the HSE has announced. It says this will "uniquely and safely" identify each person that has used, is using or may use a health or social care service in Ireland.

The HSE said the new individual health identifier, which initially will record the patient’s names, date of birth, sex, address and nationality, can be used in both public and private health sectors throughout Ireland. It said it was not the same as an electronic health record.

The individual health identifier is not related to a person’s eligibility for care and it is not necessary for the patient to have or know the details of the number to access health or social care.

The HSE said a person’s existing PPSN number could not be used as a personalised health identifier as this was created only for use in the public service or publicly funded service.


Richard Corbridge, the HSE's chief information officer, said: "While principally a patient identifier, the key advantages of the IHI are patient safety and ensuring that the right information is associated with the right individual at the point of care. The IHI will also help in managing our health services more efficiently and ensure that health information can be shared safely, seamlessly across different healthcare organisations associated with patient care."

Dr Áine Carroll, HSE national director, for clinical programmes said: "An individual identifier will help to breakdown traditional boundaries, enable sharing of information across the continuum of care and therefore facilitate integrated care. Evidence from other countries, such as Canada and the UK, tells us that unique identifiers also facilitate a reduction in medical errors, simplify the use of electronic medical records, increase overall efficiency and can help protect patient privacy."

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent