International expertise and advice is currently being sought as the HSE completes a tender for WhatsApp-type messaging software for staff, this newspaper has been told.
“The organisation leading on the procurement for the health system is currently in the process of obtaining expert international advice on best practice and technology solutions for securely communicating in a patient care environment,” a HSE spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI). “This will inform the tender. The tender has not been published yet.”
The spokesperson confirmed that the “organisation leading on the procurement” is St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin. The Executive provided no more detail on the sources of the advice being sought, or the nature of the advice.
In April, MI reported that the HSE was working on a tender to provide a messaging service for its staff following approval by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER).
Previously, the HSE tested an encrypted communications software product, similar to WhatsApp, which is available on a general public licence (free licence). However, the Executive decided to abandon this product.
In April 2018, this newspaper reported on evidence of widespread work-related use of WhatsApp groups by doctors and others in the Irish health system.
The HSE previously said it was aware of this issue and it had data protection and privacy concerns regarding the use of such software. The Executive’s current security policy recommends there should be no transmission of patient data through software such as WhatsApp.
In September, MI reported that the Medical Council had approved the establishment of a WhatsApp group for its members.