Lessons from healthcare in Ireland for the Public Sector

Kieran McCorry

Kieran McCorry

National Technology Officer

Read Time, 3 min.

Collaborating with the ESRI to better understand the potential impact of digital solutions in Irish healthcare. 

On 23 June 2021the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and Microsoft Ireland released a new research report that details the potential impact of digital solutions in healthcare, with a specific look at experiences in Ireland within the Health Service Executive (HSE). 

Perhaps the key finding—at least of most broad relevance for the Public Sector—is that a lack of sophistication in IT systems and data infrastructure were an initial barrier to a rapid response to the challenges that the COVID-19 emergency presented. However, despite the challenges, the HSE moved to immediately build the required tools. 

And they built them quickly. Brand new systems were built on the concept of a single, Microsoft Azure public cloud data lake that could provide a single source of truth, with data coming from over 30 other data systems, including testing facilities, contract tracing centres, and critical care bed data. Collecting all relevant data made it easier to execute a strategy of data-driven, evidence-based decision-making. Microsoft Dynamics 365 was the platform used for the rapid development of a system that enabled clinicians and contact tracers to engage with COVID-19 cases. Power Apps was used to allow laboratories to report daily testing numbers and case numbers. A reporting dashboard developed with Microsoft BI provided regular updates to allow better clinical decision-making. And a Healthcare Chatbot used Microsoft AI technology with input from clinicians helped ease the workload on the HSE and provided valuable information to citizens.  

All of these systems have three characteristics in common: 

  1. They rely on data sources for their operation; 
  2. They are all built on the public cloud; and 
  3. They were all built in a matter of days rather than the months that might be required for traditional on-premise systems. 

Although the ESRI report is focused on healthcare, the findings are relevant well beyond the health domain. Digital, and especially cloud-based technologies have become a crucial part of the delivery of citizen services for the Public Sector.  

Cloud-based systems can be developed extremely rapidly, modified quickly, and scaled extensively. While it is laudable that they can be relied upon in the early stages of a crisis, it is incumbent upon the Public Sector to craft a future digital strategy that exploits all the benefits that public cloud-based systems have to offer. These include providing the best value for money, always having the most up-to-date technology available, and, of course, offering the most reliable and secure systems hosting for our country’s most important and critical citizen services. 

As we hopefully get to the other side of this very challenging year and a half, we should reflect upon the role that technology has played as we reactively responded to its challenges and look to the role that technology should play proactively to establish a future with the best possible platforms for the delivery of the most effective and efficient citizen services.  

(Click here for a summary of the key findings from the report.) 

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