Wed | Jun 26, 2019

Confidentiality key to patient record-sharing – expert

Published:Friday | May 17, 2019 | 12:35 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Dr Casimiro Dias (left), adviser on health systems and services at PAHO/WHO, looks at an animated Raphael Barrett, health management consultant, during the inaugural Health Information Management Conference at UTech on Thursday, May 16.
Dr Casimiro Dias (left), adviser on health systems and services at PAHO/WHO, looks at an animated Raphael Barrett, health management consultant, during the inaugural Health Information Management Conference at UTech on Thursday, May 16.

As the idea of an integrated health management system picks up steam, a local expert has underscored that privacy must be paramount for the paradigm to work and have public confidence.

Even when the framework enabling cross-facility sharing is in full swing, patients should have full control of who can access their health records, says Raphael Barrett, a health management and financing consultant.

“The concern ought to be how data is secured and made confidential, so that you as a patient have confidence that your medical data is there (digitally), but is only released if you want it released,” Barrett told The Gleaner.

“It ought not to be automatic that you enter the system, by registering your condition at a health centre and when you go to the hospital, they can just pop it up without asking if they can have access to your data. You should have control over it. Security and confidentiality begin with respecting and recognising that the data is yours.”

Barrett, who was the keynote speaker at the inaugural Health Information Management Conference in St Andrew at the University of Technology’s Shared Facilities Building yesterday, called for foolproof buffers that prevented the copying and pasting of data.

“What I am saying is that when you are doing this real time, people get lazy, and just want to cut and paste, and you fall into a trap of complacency. So you need to ensure that there are systems and procedures. I am not against copying and pasting, per se. The point is, when it is done inappropriately, how am I going tell?” he asked.

Barrett cited several advantages of a seamless health management system, chief of which is easing wait times for suffering patients.

“The kinds of benefits and improvements that one ought to expect from it are, for instance, right now, patients go to health facilities and have to register. They get referred to another facility and when they go there, they have to register again. They then get pushed up to a third facility and have to register once more,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we need a mechanism where we can uniquely identify each citizen so that when you go into the health system, you ought to be registered just once and when you move along, your information travels with you.”

Privacy concerns will heighten if the Government’s touted national health insurance plan would be operationalised on an ­information-sharing platform, including the disclosure, to ­relevant personnel, of the identity of patients with private health accounts.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com