Electronic health records key to better and safer care

We thank Dr Mona Tan, Dr Yik Keng Yeong and Dr Sitoh Yih Yiow for their feedback on the National Electronic Health Record (NEHR) (How will MOH deal with errors in national patient database entries? and Doctor-patient relationship under threat, both on Nov 24; Concerns over national health records valid, Dec 2).

With an ageing population and the rise in chronic diseases in Singapore, more patients will have multiple medical conditions requiring coordinated team-based care across healthcare providers.

When a patient seeks urgent and critical care at the emergency department of a hospital, timely access to the patient's medical records saves lives.

The NEHR system will be a key enabler for better continuity of care and patient safety in Singapore. Patients' medical records should follow them regardless of where they seek treatment, and should not be lost should a clinic cease operation.

With NEHR, healthcare professionals will have better knowledge of the patient's medical history, facilitating better decision-making and more appropriate care.

Patient confidentiality and personal data protection will continue to be upheld with the implementation of the NEHR.

Access to the NEHR is intended only for purposes directly related to patient care, and penalties will be imposed for unauthorised access.

For purposes other than the provision of care, for example pre-employment medical screening or insurance, explicit consent must be obtained from patients.

This is no different from today.

In support of healthcare providers coming on board the NEHR, there are several grants available through productivity schemes from relevant government agencies.

In addition, to support providers with existing systems, the Ministry of Health will be providing financial support of $20 million to help providers defray the cost of upgrading their systems.

All this will help healthcare providers realise the benefits of digitisation and participation in NEHR.We look forward to working closely with healthcare providers to achieve the nation's journey to "one patient, one health record".

Christina Tan (Ms)

Director, Programme Delivery-Care Integration

Integrated Health Information Systems

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 13, 2017, with the headline 'Electronic health records key to better and safer care'. Print Edition | Subscribe