Sharing of data between public and private clinics will boost Hong Kong’s health care system

Six years after HK$1 billion was set aside to develop a computerised patient record-sharing programme, a large-scale trial will finally get under way

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 March, 2016, 10:59pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 March, 2016, 10:59pm

In a city where public and private health care operate in separate universes, an electronic record-sharing system that could enhance treatment of a patient moving from one system to the other seems like common sense. But it has not proved that simple to introduce one that helps ensure Hong Kong continues to enjoy a world-class health care system. This is because of privacy concerns that a wide range of sensitive personal data could be exposed to doctors and health professionals who do not need to access it all in order to administer treatment.

As a result, more than six years have passed since the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee approved the allocation of more than HK$1 billion to develop a computerised patient record-sharing system. Meanwhile, nearly half a million patients and 3,500 health care professionals have participated in a pilot project. The rolling out this week of the Electronic Health Record Sharing System is therefore a landmark event, even it is only the beginning of a long trial.

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From Sunday, subject to patients’ consent, public hospital doctors will be able to view personal health records held by private hospitals and clinics, and vice versa. In practice, this means the platform can process up to nine types of data that are fundamental to patient care and safety, including adverse drug reactions and allergies, diagnoses, immunities and appointment summaries, for access by doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists.

All 11 private hospitals are participating along with more than 20 public medical service providers with many community clinics and major health care services groups still to sign up. A more functional partnership between the public and private health care sectors – or between public hospital doctors and private practitioners – is one of the most effective ways of enhancing delivery of health care services using existing resources. It is key to the goal of expanding community care and preventive medicine with greater involvement of private doctors to relieve pressure on a stressed public system.