Having a central medical database is a good thing, but the Health Ministry should make a better effort to get honest feedback, and also take a hard look at all the problems the National Electronic Health Records (NEHR) has before making it mandatory for doctors in the private sector to get on board (MOH to spur private sector input for health database; July 3).
There are some serious flaws in the NEHR in its present state.
First, as highlighted by the Singapore Medical Association, confidentiality issues do not seem to be taken seriously.
Second, the system is cumbersome. Any junior doctor from the public sector will tell you that it slows down his work. Meanwhile, senior doctors get others to summarise the information for them.
Third, there is a lack of patient participation.
An electronic health record should be built around facilitating cooperation between doctors and patients.
At times, the best person to furnish information is the patient, for instance, what medication he is currently taking, including any over-the-counter drugs.
Finally, there is the cost factor. Many general practitioner clinics are barely breaking even.
The MOH must be prepared to reimburse clinics for the costs they would have to incur to set up the system.
Long-term funding is required for this. Reimbursement can be on a per patient basis.
Other costs include building a gateway to link the NEHR with the existing GP electronic medical records system.
As all doctors have a stake in this, the feedback process should be a lot more transparent.