Fine-tune e-health system that shares records of patients in Hong Kong
The Electronic Health Record (eHR) Sharing System launched in March by the government enables health-care professionals in public hospitals and private clinics to share a variety of patient information electronically. This information includes, for example, adverse reactions and allergies, a summary of episodes, immunisation records, and laboratory and radiology results.
Despite its promise to enhance the efficiency of health care and promote collaboration, the system needs improvement in three major respects in order to realise its full potential.
The current opt-in registration system must be replaced by an opt-out programme in order to sign up most Hong Kong residents. To join the current system, patients must register online and activate their e-health records by going to an eHR registration centre. Not many Hongkongers would take the trouble to do this. Only through a programme that automatically enrols all residents (except those who opt out) can the government monitor public health accurately and make informed health-related policy decisions accordingly.
While the system allows medical professionals to access the e-health records, patients who need access to their own medical records still have to submit a paper-based data access request in writing and pay a fee.
This is absurd given that an electronic copy of medical records can be e-mailed to the patients with a few clicks. Research has found that sharing doctors’ notes with patients leads to more collaborative doctor-patient relationships and more engaged health-care recipients. Therefore, to better inform and engage patients, the eHR sharing system should provide a website and a mobile app allowing patients free and instant access to their medical records.
Finally, the eHR sharing system should not confine itself to data sharing but should evolve into a smart e-health platform offering a range of value-added services. Based on the medical records, the system should deliver personalised health education via mobile devices promoting healthy lifestyles.
Integrated with registration platforms of both public hospitals and private clinics, the system should also allow users to make appointments with doctors online and pay their medical bills with mobile devices. The same system should make claims to insurance companies for the users electronically and send authenticated medical certificates to the employers if necessary.
To take the city’s health-care system into the digital age, the Electronic Health Record Sharing System is a good start but much work remains to be done.
Simon Wang, Kowloon Tong