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Sharing of electronic hospital inpatient discharge summaries

 

During the recent Budget Debate, Acting Minister for Health, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, highlighted the sharing of electronic medical records (EMR) as part of MOH's patient-centric approach to healthcare, and outlined plans to link up the EMR systems of Singapore Health Services and National Healthcare Group.

With effect from 1 April 2004, MOH will be taking the first step toward this link-up, with the sharing of electronic hospital inpatient discharge summaries.

Benefits of EMR sharing

EMRs are essentially electronic versions of paper-based medical records. Unlike paper-based medical records, however, digitised versions can be easily shared online across IT-enabled healthcare institutions. This will contribute significantly to improved patient care outcomes.

First, it facilitates higher patient safety and quality of care. Quick and easy access to the medical history, and laboratory and other test results of a patient allows more thorough assessment in less time and with greater holistic accuracy.

This is especially important in the Accident & Emergency setting where a patient could be unconscious when admitted and immediate, accurate access to vital information such as pre-existing medical conditions, drug allergies and current medications can significantly aid treatment. It will enable doctors to make more accurate diagnoses and prescriptions.

Second, it enables our hospitals to provide better co-ordinated care, especially when a patient moves across different hospitals and levels of healthcare delivery. (Today, about 240,000 patients are referred between public healthcare institutions annually, of which about 24% are inter-cluster. All these patients can potentially benefit from EMR sharing both within and across cluster.)

For example, patients with multiple conditions may need to see several specialists, sometimes in different hospitals, for treatment. Under a system of paper-based medical records, the attending physicians may not be able to access the latest information in a timely fashion, especially if they operate from different institutions. EMR sharing will address this short-coming and allow the physicians to better co-ordinate their treatment.

Third, it will reduce costs for patients, as ready access to information such as laboratory test and x-ray results will eliminate unnecessary repeat orders for identical tests by doctors in different institutions.

The EMR Exchange (EMRX)

From 1 April 2004, MOH will rollout the EMR Exchange (EMRX) to enable hospitals and polyclinics from both public healthcare clusters to electronically share information vital for better patient care.

For a start, both clusters will share Hospital Inpatient Discharge Summaries (HIDS), which contain information of a patient's recent hospitalisation episode(s) including his drug allergies where applicable, diagnoses, medication prescribed and response to treatment. The list of information items to be shared will be gradually expanded to include laboratory test results and radiology reports, Outpatient Discharge Summaries and Polyclinic Discharge Summaries.

To protect the confidentiality of the information being shared and ensure that it is used in a responsible and appropriate manner for the sole purpose of treating their patients, strict access and audit controls are in place to deter and detect any unauthorised access to the data.

Only doctors and healthcare staff who treat the patient will have access to the shared records. They are bound by law and professional codes of conduct to respect and protect patient confidentiality.

Source: Ministry of Health Press Release 30 Mar 2004

 

 

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Sunday
11 April 2004