MOH to review medical records security

Published: Sunday | April 22, 2012 Comments 0
Dr. Fenton Ferguson
Dr. Fenton Ferguson

After close to a week of silence, the Ministry of Health has finally spoken about the anorexic control systems and lax security measures at two of Jamaica's hospitals that left the confidential medical history of patients open to public access.

In its response, the health ministry warned that it will be considering punitive measures for breaches of the regulations governing the handling of medical records.

"The Ministry of Health will be conducting a review of the security of the medical records filing rooms at all health facilities with a view to ensuring authorised access only," read a section of a press release issued on Friday.

Last week, a Sunday Gleaner investigation revealed that patient information, contained in thousands of medical records at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) and the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), can be accessed by almost anyone wishing to do so.

This is in breach of all the rules and guidelines for the storage of medical records locally and internationally and could lead to the hospitals and the Government facing several lawsuits.

According to the health ministry, the planned review will also consi-der the proper location of medical records on hospital wards and clinics and sanctions for the unauthorised handling of medical records among health-care staff.

The government's assessment will also seek to improve the awareness of citizens concerning their right to privacy and confidentiality of medical information and the system established in health facilities.

"Periodic audits of the system will also be done along with the dissemination of the guidelines used to the point of care," said the health ministry.

Re-sensitisation

The ministry added that it would be resensitising staff regarding the guidelines for the handling of patient records, particularly outside of the medical records filing room.

"All employees assigned to the wards will be asked to immediately report any access to health records by unauthorised persons. Health-care staff are also required to visibly display their identification badges which should be worn at all times while on duty."

The health ministry noted that in a hospital setting, the medical records are the property of the health facility and reminded that when the patient files are on the wards being used primarily by medical officers and nurses, they are the responsibility of nursing personnel.

- tyrone.reid@gleanerjm.com

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