A long-delayed system which will allow private and public doctors to share patient health records will be online by the end of the year, the government said yesterday.
While the computerised system is designed to facilitate co-operation between both sectors, Doctors Union president Henry Yeung Chiu-fat said that it may take time for some private doctors to adapt to the new process as most of them now write records by hand.
"We are positive about the good impact of the measure, but there are still a few hurdles to overcome," said Yeung. "One of which is to keep the system as simple to use as possible so that it is easy for older doctors to learn."
He hoped that when the system was implemented it would be compatible with other electronic systems currently available in the market, to minimise the effect on private doctors.
The Electronic Health Record Sharing System Bill, which will go to the Legislative Council for scrutiny on April 30, was gazetted yesterday.
"Given the sensitive nature of health records and this unique arrangement for data sharing, it is necessary to formulate new legislation to provide additional safeguards so as to instil public confidence in the system," said a government spokesman.
"We believe the implementation of eHR sharing will enhance public-private partnership in the health-care sector and help redress public-private imbalance," he added.
The introduction of the system will help senior citizens, children and people who frequently use public and private health-care services at the same time.
In the long run, it will also help reduce errors in medical treatment and prescriptions and avoid unnecessary duplication of tests, he said.
In 2009, Legco's Finance Committee passed a proposal to allocate HK$1.1 billion to develop a computerised system over the next 10 years. The first phase, which was expected to come into use last year, was delayed until the announcement yesterday.
Yeung said he was also worried that there could be a "flood" of information, which may result in doctors having to go through a patient's entire health record - a task that could be time-consuming and unnecessary.
He said the union would maintain communication with the bureau to voice its concern.
Participation in eHR will be on a voluntary basis for health-care providers and any information sharing would be subject to a patient's consent.