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S'pore takes a shot at sharing e-medical data

Government plans to implement an electronic medical record system to securely share consolidated data with doctors in public and private practice.
Written by Lynn Tan @ Redhat, Contributor

SINGAPORE--The government has announced plans to consolidate patient medical records in a common IT system to enable the information to be shared, securely, between doctors from both the public and private sectors in the country.

In response to privacy concerns voiced by MPs during a parliament session on Wednesday--a day after the government unveiled plans to introduce the electronic medical record (EMR) system in Singapore--Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said: "We have to decide what are the critical data, and some data are so sensitive that they would never be shared. So it doesn't mean 'one Singaporean, one EMR' means everything, all the gory details, are out in outer space."

Khaw added: "Issues like HIV and sexual diseases--those data, we will keep highly confidential."

Tagged with the slogan "One Singaporean, One EMR", the centralized database is an important infrastructure in transforming healthcare in the country, said the health minister during his speech Tuesday.

"Right now, it is one Singaporean, multiple medical records [which are] stored away in different clinics and hospitals in different formats, and not connected or consolidated," he said. "As a result, when patients visit different doctors, they have to have tests repeated and scans redone. This adds to unnecessary cost."

Khaw said that Singapore's migration to the EMR system will be done gradually. "Because of legacy systems, we cannot achieve it in one step, but we have made progress," he added.

He noted that only a few countries have successfully put in place an e-medical record system that connects the public, private and charity sectors. This is because several issues, such as data protection, regulation and audit, need to be considered first.

"We need to take a measured approach, to pilot and put together a comprehensive framework that takes care of these issues," Khaw said. "This will begin with common data standards. We will do this within the public sector, and extend this to the step-down institutions."

"We have started to build the linkages to the private sector GP (general practitioner) clinics, by helping them to set up their IT systems under the Chronic Disease management effort," he added. "I am confident that we will get there."

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