Healthlink the National Health Messaging Broker

Starting Out

Healthlink is the National Health Messaging broker and provides a web-based messaging service which allows for the secure transmission of clinical patient information between hospitals, healthcare agencies and medical practitioners.

The Healthlink Project was originally setup as a proof concept in the Mater hospital in 1995. It was developed as a Visual Basic application, facilitating the scheduled-based transfer of medical reports from hospitals to GPs. During the early days the Healthlink team visited GP practices to install the application from floppy disks!

 

Key Milestones

  • 2005: Healthlink became available online providing a web-based service. Healthlink was working with 6 hospitals, which were mainly Dublin and Limerick based, to facilitate the exchange of 8 message types to GPs. These included laboratory & radiology reports, waiting list & discharge notifications and discharge summary reports.
  • 2007: Healthlink upgraded from Visual Basic 6 to C# .Net and facilitated GP laboratory orders for the Mater and St. James’ hospitals which were integrated into the hospital LIS systems. The first referral was also submitted to St. Vincent’s neurology department. Reports were now being processed in real-time.

  • 2008: Healthlink enabled integration with the GP practice vendors thereby enabling GPs to send and receive reports from within their practice systems.

  • 2009: The prostate referral, as first referral as part of the NCCP suite of referrals, was enabled.

  • 2012: Healthlink was nominated the National Messaging Broker.

  • 2014: Healthlink processed its 10 millionth message with over 50 million messages since the service initially commenced. This was celebrated in Croke Park with Kathleen Lynch, the Minister for Primary Care, Social Care & Mental Health.

  • 2016: The Healthlink team was brought into the HSE and moved into a new office in Parnell St in Dublin 1.

  • 2018: Healthlink becomes part of the new A2I-HIDs programme as the first operational group in the newly formed eHealth Ireland.

Cloud Migration Project

Since inception, the Healthlink infrastructure has been located in the Mater Hospital data centres. Several key factors such as accelerated growth coinciding with end-of-life hardware resulted in the decision to move to a cloud platform.

In 2020 the Healthlink team upgraded its hosting infrastructure to provide a cloud-based disaster recovery solution in advance of an ultimate migration to the cloud. Pandemic response took priority for the following 18 months but the plan was always to complete a full migration project as soon as possible. 

The Cloud Migration project recommenced in earnest in January 2022. This involved a ‘Lift and Shift’ solution replicating the entire on-premise environment onto Microsoft Azure (IaaS). The scope was to change only what was necessary to have the system functional, secure and scalable. The project was carried out by a small, dedicated team who spent months deploying, configuring and testing the system before successfully enabling the production application in the cloud on June 22nd this year.

The next 12 months of our cloud modernisation programme will utilise cloud native components to further enhance our service in terms of modernisation, usability, scalability and security.

Healthlink Today

Healthlink now supports in excess of 14,000 users across 1,900 sites. The A2i-HIDs support team provide support and training on all aspects of the application from downloading test reports to sending eReferrals. Users vary from GPs and their staff to public health practitioners and hospital admin teams. The range of message types has grown to include a suite of referrals, radiology orders along with vaccination reports, sick certs, maternity shared-care reports and PCRS reimbursements. 216 million reports have been processed to date, growing from 3.7 million reports in 2008 to 38 million reports in 2021.

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User Feedback

Healthlink has always had very positive engagement with our user community. The Support team is in constant contact, and they ensure that all feedback is incorporated into requirements and new services developed by A2i-HIDs.

Since the changeover to Healthlink our working life at the surgery has been transformed. The ease of use of the system is a big bonus for those not up on "the tech side", I find it very user friendly. If there have been any issues they are quickly resolved in an efficient and professional manner by the Healthlink team”. Sheila O'Donnell, Practice Manager, Falcarragh Health Centre.

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Contact Details: support.healthlink@hse.ie

Published: 15/08/2022