Patients' records at their fingertips with new Web portal

1996: Health-care providers start storing medical data in digital form after 
hard-copy documents become too overwhelming to manage.  2006: Medical professionals use pocket computers instead of paper files to store and access patients' medical record
1996: Health-care providers start storing medical data in digital form after hard-copy documents become too overwhelming to manage. 2006: Medical professionals use pocket computers instead of paper files to store and access patients' medical records. IN THE FUTURE: Patients could skip having to apply to hospitals, and access their records directly.ST FILE PHOTOS
IN THE FUTURE: Patients could skip having to apply to hospitals, and access their records directly. -- ST FILE PHOTO
IN THE FUTURE: Patients could skip having to apply to hospitals, and access their records directly. -- ST FILE PHOTO
2006: Medical professionals use pocket computers instead of paper files to store and access patients' medical records. -- ST FILE PHOTO
2006: Medical professionals use pocket computers instead of paper files to store and access patients' medical records. -- ST FILE PHOTO
1996: Health-care providers start storing medical data in digital form after hard-copy documents become too overwhelming to manage. -- ST FILE PHOTO
1996: Health-care providers start storing medical data in digital form after hard-copy documents become too overwhelming to manage. -- ST FILE PHOTO

Plans in place for Web portal to let people access their medical history

Retrieving your own medical records any time, anywhere, with a click of the mouse may soon be possible.

Plans are in place to develop a Web portal for people to access their medical history.

Not only that, they may even be able to update some of the data by keying in information like their latest blood pressure and blood sugar readings.

Those with health concerns could also post questions, which will be answered by medical professionals, so avoiding unnecessary trips to the doctor. These are some of the features being explored for the planned portal.

The move is to empower patients to be in charge of their own health, said Mr Ho Khai Leng, group director for applications at the Integrated Health Information Systems. The organisation comes under MOH Holdings and manages health-care information technology systems across Singapore's public sector.

Mr Ho was speaking at a two- day conference on patient care last week at Marina Bay Sands.

When asked, the Ministry of Health said the portal is an "idea" it is studying. "It can be a powerful tool to encourage patients to take charge of their own health and engage in health promotion," a ministry spokesman said.

Given the ageing population, it is "pertinent" to leverage on IT to "help better manage patient care, beyond expanding our health- care infrastructure and resources", the spokesman added.

All public health institutions, along with several nursing homes, community hospitals and general practice clinics, can share patient records under the National Electronic Health Records system.

But access to the records is limited to the health-care professionals. Patients who want copies of their medical records have to apply to hospitals, and pay a fee for the service - a process that takes at least a month and which is mostly done for insurance claims.

Other features could include allowing patients to order refills of their regular medication, and offering health tips tailored to their condition.

The Straits Times understands that the portal could be ready in the next two years or so.

Health-care IT expert Raju Chellam, who heads the business continuity group at Singapore Computer Society, said the planned Web portal is "feasible".

"The key question is, who owns the data? The Government, hospital or the patient?" said Mr Chellam, who is a member of the National Cloud Computing Advisory Council at the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore. He said that this will decide who has total access to it.

If the medical records belong to individual patients, this means that a person can save the information in a portable device.

"You can save the data in a thumbdrive, bring it along to wherever you go and share with doctors anywhere in the world - like a passport," he said.

Diabetes patient Gilbert Chong, 65, said it would be convenient and useful to retrieve his medical data easily.

But he feels it is not a good idea to order refills of drugs via the portal, as the dosage and type of medication required may have to be adjusted by the doctor.

"If I don't understand the medical terms in the report, I will clarify with the doctor on my next visit - at least I know what to ask him about," said the retiree, who visits the polyclinic every two to three months.

"This way, people can take action before something bad happens," he added.

chpoon@sph.com.sg