Elaine Naughton – Helping to Deliver Health Technology in the HSE

Elaine Naughton, Continuous Service Improvement Lead

With 25 years’ experience working in the IT Industry, Elaine Naughton leads a cross-functional and multi-disciplinary team within the HSE. Elaine reports to the Assistant National Director for Acute Services IT who is responsible for the delivery of IT solutions into all hospitals.

After graduating from WIT with a BSc in Applied Computing, she is currently completing an MSc in Technology Management while working full time. Elaine started her career in Digital’s European Software Centre in Galway as a software engineer where her leadership abilities helped her to ascend. Moving to Nortel Networks in 1997 was the start of her affinity with telephony, customer services and call centre technology. In 2002, she was responsible for building and managing the infrastructure for Micros Fidelio’s European Tech Support Centre.

Following the birth of twins in 2005, Elaine joined the HSE as their IT Manager for the West region. She has held a number of critical national roles within the department since then. Notably, the building of the national Active Directory in 2012 which has helped pave the way for inter-region collaboration and application consolidation, assisting with the initial launch and digital marketing of the eHealth Ireland organisation in 2015 and formalising how Critical IT incidents are managed in the HSE since 2016.


HERizon: What are you currently working on in the HSE?

Elaine: I am working on IT Service & Support Improvement for two major national programmes of work: MedLIS (Medical Laboratory Information System) and MN-CMS (Maternity & New Born Clinical Management System). These are strategic programmes along the route to national shared health records for the citizens of Ireland. The programmes are closely linked, both technically and functionally, and I provide coordinated management of the IT aspects, Infrastructure, Service & Support, of the project to ensure that the rollout of the systems is successful. As part of this work. I investigate potential solutions to enable the HSE to provide 24/7 support to users of these systems, not just HSE staff, but voluntary hospitals and GP practices and elsewhere. The idea that we provide technology solutions to people outside of our own staff is new and will continue to grow. Providing support for our new health sector-wide users is an important consideration that hasn’t been broached yet, and I want to develop that.


HERizon: What impact will MEDLIS and MN-CMS have on patients?

Elaine: These two programmes are the basis for the first shared health records for every patient in Ireland. MedLIS will be the only Laboratory system used by all staff in all hospitals & labs, as well as primary and intermediary care settings which means a patient’s lab results can be accessed directly by their GP and abnormal, urgent results can even be flagged to them in real time. This will reduce unnecessary delays and costs associated with results being sent by post.

MN-CMS provides us with electronic health records for mothers and babies. It includes early warning systems which mean improved safety for the patient. Babies have their own record, not a page in their mother’s chart, meaning these are our first citizens who have a digital health record from birth, which is fascinating! For those babies in NICU, monitors keep an eye on vital signs like temperature and heartrate so a nurse is aware immediately if something is happening. Before the introduction of the system the nurse would have to check babies temps and heartrate manually which takes up precious time for the real care and attention that these tiny babies need. My own twins spent a time in NICU so this one is close to my heart.


HERizon: How many patients will benefit from these new programmes?

 Elaine: When the rollout completes, MedLIS will benefit every patient in the country. MN-CMS will be used for every maternity patient in every maternity unit in the country


HERizon: What is eHealth and how will it transform our experience as a patient?

Elaine: eHealth is simply this: our healthcare, enhanced and made safer by modern technology. Health technology is a very exciting space to be in right now. It has the potential to completely transform patient care pathways, from access to GP appointments to robotic surgery for highly accurate and delicate procedures, to allowing the patient to take their health into their own hands, (mHealth). Examples of applications in this space would be the use of wearable health monitors to manage chronic illnesses like Parkinson’s and Diabetes. Similarly certain health insurance companies are offering an app with access to a free GP consultation for minor ailments, who can even email your prescription to your local pharmacy – all without you needing to leave the house. In the HSE we already have a wealth of amazing technology solutions that we are deploying which you can read about on our website www.ehealthireland.ie.


HERizon: Have you noticed any changes since you started out in the level of female participation in Tech?

Elaine: When I graduated college, women made up just over a quarter of the class. And were the largest group of women to graduate from that course up to that point. Working in tech organisations at that time was challenging. You really had to push your tech skills.  The lines between tech and non-tech jobs of course are blurring since it is such an intrinsic part of every industry now. A graphic artist is as much a technology career as a games engineer. However, with the push to encourage more women into choosing STEAM careers, if we have a larger pool of female technologists to choose from, then we will see a greater proliferation of women in the years to come. You can already see it among the millennial generation which is great.


HERizon: What sort of opportunities exist for women in Tech now that might not have been possible before?

Elaine: The glass ceiling is still there for women I’m afraid. But the more women there are in the resource pool with STEAM qualifications, experience and talent, the more women we will see rising to the top level in organisations. Unfortunately in Ireland, of the top 200 companies only 18 of them have female CIO’s (http://www.irishtimes.com/business/technology/women-cios-take-the-lead-1.555873 ). Women have valuable skills that are perfect for the CIO’s role (multi-tasking, emotional intelligence, listening) but we are not good at promoting ourselves. This article found that women only apply for jobs if they feel that they have 100% of the skills and competencies looked for, whereas men with 70% of the qualifications will apply, without a thought. We have to encourage and empower women to apply for jobs in the tech industry, because research has proven that companies with gender balance at leadership level makes an organisation more profitable.


HERizon: What advice would you give young women thinking about STEM subject choices and career opportunities?

Elaine: I would say if you have an interest in STEM, (or STEAM careers if you include the highly technical end of the creative arts industry), do it! The opportunities for rewarding careers in these areas are endless and it is such an exciting time to be a part of any STEAM industry because of the pace of change and innovation. Technology is just the enabler. Pretty much anything is possible now. Science fiction in many examples is fast becoming science fact! Be confident that you can be a valuable part of it.


HERizon: Are there threats to female participation and leadership in Tech?

Elaine: I don’t see threats so much as obstacles to be overcome. For me it is about self-confidence, so my own threat is myself unfortunately. But there are still gender prejudices out there, however disguised: An assertive woman is often described as “aggressive” or “pushy”. A confident woman is “arrogant”. These prejudices can be hard to break through in certain organisations, but in the HSE we have a programme of values and diversity that is being actively driven which is great.

If you have a leader, like we do now, who knows the value of gender balance at leadership level and seeks to empower women to participate at that level, you will see those obstacles breaking down pretty quickly. I hope that the next CIO of the HSE will be a woman – she would be the first female CIO in the public sector in Ireland – that is something to aspire to.


HERizon: What advice would you give to women working in the Tech sector who want to get into management?

Elaine: It can be hard for technical people to become managers. It is a different set of skills to learn. If you want to be a successful manager you need to invest in some level of training and development. Find a course that suits your needs. I am currently doing a MSc in Technology Management. It includes People management, Managing Innovation, Finance and Strategy which are important up-skills. I have also done a Leadership Development course with the Irish Computer Society which I found great. I think above all you need to be self-aware. Do a SWOT analysis on yourself – get to know your strengths and then advertise them, your weaknesses – embrace them and treat them as opportunities to learn and grow, your opportunities – know the market, seek out roles that will challenge and develop you. Build a profile of your achievements and promote them – LinkedIn is a great place to do this.


HERizon: Like many women, you have a variety of interests outside of work. Tell us about your millinery and other creative businesses?

Elaine: Well, as my Twitter tagline announces I’m an IT manager by profession and an artist at heart. I started out with oil painting and had a solo exhibition of my efforts here in Galway in the City Library back in 2002. I taught myself paper craft during my maternity leave and did a stint at hand made wedding invitations for a couple of years. I got into Millinery in 2009 after doing an evening course in GMIT College of Art & Design. Fashion has been my family’s business for over 200 years, so there was an affinity there. I absolutely love the almost sculptural aspect to the creation of a hat or headpiece. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to see someone straighten up and stand proud when they put a headpiece on and it suits them, their personality and their outfit equally. We are back to empowerment and confidence.  www.facebook.com/laineygrey

As well as this I co-produce my husband’s concerts – he’s a professional tenor. I’ve worked on his website design, concert scripting, video creation and editing, set designs, CD artwork, you name it!

Most recently, I’ve found an opportunity within my job to bring my creative side out, which is in the creation of video content for eHealth presentations delivered by our CIO. I really love this as it is both technical and artistic at the same time so I get the best of both worlds.


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