Hong Kong health care and hospitals

How Hong Kong can become a smart city in public health

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 March, 2018, 10:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 March, 2018, 10:59pm

Since its launch in March 2016, the eHealth Record Sharing System (eHRSS), which enables the exchange of health care data among private professionals and public hospitals, has enrolled over 680,000 health care recipients and 1,400 providers.

While the initial response is promising, the Food and Health Bureau must promote the system more aggressively to justify its enormous development and operating costs. It should also collaborate with both the Department of Health and Hospital Authority working on other eHealth projects to save manpower and resources.

According to the bureau, stage one of eHRSS development cost HK$702 million and stage two development, which began last July, is expected to cost another ­HK$422 million. Moreover, the annual operating cost of the system as of 2016-17 amounts to about HK$200 million, or nearly HK$300 per user per year. Unless eHealth can benefit 10 times the number of recipients it currently serves, the Food and Health secretary may have a hard time justifying such a huge recurring operating cost.

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To further market the system, the bureau should focus on children, through collaborating with the Family Health Service and School Dental Care Service of the Department of Health. As of October 2017, eHRSS patients aged under 12 and 16 numbered about 11,300 and 12,400, respectively, suggesting children are severely underserved by eHealth. Meanwhile, the department has developed two separate online platforms – Child Health Service Booking System and Student Internet Service for Dental Care – for the two service units mentioned above. The number of children in eHRSS will increase significantly if the e-platforms developed by the Department of Health and the eHRSS of the Food and Health Bureau become fully integrated.

Such efforts of platform integration and data sharing should also extend to other Hospital Authority e-initiatives, such as HA Touch, DM Care and i-Easy, to avoid resource wastage in developing and marketing separate systems. Concerted efforts are needed among the Department of Health, Hospital Authority and Electronic Health Record Registration Office under the leadership of the health secretary, for Hong Kong to realise its vision of building a smart city in the area of public health.

Simon Wang, Kowloon Tong