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Digital Health and Care NI innovating in response to Covid-19 challenges

8th October 2020

The Digital Health and Care NI (DHCNI) team in partnership with the Department of Health (DoH), Health Trusts and industry partners is continuing to play an important role in battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

The response has focused on five main strategic goals, including mobilising the workforce; enabling locations and capacity; informing and supporting the public; developing data and insights; and supporting vulnerable people.

Mobilising the workforce involves the delivery of more devices and upgrading central infrastructure and systems to allow staff across HSC and civil service to work remotely, including things like VPN firewalls and purchasing licences to enable increased use of video conferencing services.

Enabling locations and capacity focuses on supporting Health and Social Care organisations to equip existing sites handling COVID-19 patients. DHCNI was closely involved in supporting digital workflows in the COVID centres and granting access to the Northern Ireland Independent Care Record (NIECR) to the Independent sector hospitals.

DHCNI is informing and supporting the public by providing a more convenient user experience for information about the pandemic and reducing the burden on front line staff through telephone and digital channels where possible. The team set up the 111 COVID-19 helpline to reduce some of the traffic that would have resulted in a telephone call to GPs or GP Out of Hours and created the region-wide mobile app COVIDCare NI App.

Through developing data and insights, DHCNI has gained an understanding of information flow within and across the Health and Social Care sector. In response the team is providing consistent access and tool sets for analysts, supporting operations and planning for the pandemic response. A key example of this work is the DoH COVID-19 dashboard which provides a range of statistics on the number of Covid-19 patient admissions and discharges, outbreaks in care settings; bed occupancy, ICU occupancy and gender and age breakdowns.

Last but not least, the team is continuing to support vulnerable people by digital solutions to help vulnerable patients receive the best care, while reducing burden on acute facilities. The team established the shielded patients register and launched the Digital Interpreting Service on April 24. DHCNI has also played an integral role in facilitating virtual visits by community and primary care teams using video conferencing.

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