Sun | Jun 13, 2021

Medical e-records must be secure

Published:Thursday | April 26, 2012 | 12:00 AM


The move to embrace health information portability and accessibility in the dynamic and electronic 21st century shows great promise for the advancement of health care in Jamaica.

However, I would like to caution readers of the story 'Go digital to protect patients' (Sunday, April 22) and any proponents for adopting the electronic health records (EHR) system to recognise further attention needs to be given to creating sustainable infrastructure for managing the transition to a secure paperless environment.

As a former director of health information management, my team and I took four US clinical sites from paper-based to paperless operation. Any success gained came from a healthy appreciation for the statutes and laws that later produced policies and procedures for the governance of this transition.

No room for breaches

Maintenance of health information privacy and security, especially in an electronic environment, is paramount to data integrity and data exchange. Therefore, I am hopeful that the laws governing these in Jamaica come with tightly adhered-to ramifications for breaching such.

In extrapolating that a breach of security or privacy can take place with the end-user (physician, nurse, clerical staff), we should also be aware that the virtual data houses using cloud technology create a likelihood of violation that is not easily tracked. The plausibility of maintaining privacy and security in using technology is still out for debate and to entrust 'all patient' records in Jamaica to one EHR system is not a viable adoption.

The US has HIPAA (Health Information Portability and Accountability Act) and a host of other laws that govern management and mismanagement of all patient records, at the level of the end-user, software supplier and data repositories. These have been amply communicated and rigorously adhered to with penalties, including imprisonment for violations.

I hope we proceed with careful investigation before accommodating a national repository for each and every Jamaican patient. If we don't, hearing one's medical diagnosis at the Coronation Market will likely become a relatively minuscule infringement.