Let patients decide what goes into national health database

Nothing is ever 100 per cent secure on the Internet.

We have seen that time and time again.

It is the reason we do not post nude selfies on WhatsApp, sexual escapades on Facebook, mental issue updates in Instagram or other embarrassing stuff on social media.

If one's account is not hacked into, it is not because his security is outstanding.

Individuals are seldom of interest to hackers.

They usually target much bigger fish like social media platforms, cryptocurrency exchanges and national databases.

The only way one's information is going to be completely secure against a determined hacker is if he does not put it on the Net to begin with.

The decision to delay the implementation of compulsory submission of medical data by all healthcare providers to the National Electronic Health Record system is a temporary relief, but we need a more permanent solution.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) may mean well to have all information uploaded on to the system.

But it is a blanket policy which has little flexibility and takes away patients' right to decide what information is put online.

All decisions should be made through open discussion.

Advising patients in a way that only highlights the benefits and glosses over the risks of a procedure is considered bad medicine.

Shouldn't informed consent be necessary before making a policy decision?

Patients may not want everything about their medical history made public.

The recent SingHealth cyber attack is a big wake-up call (Info on 1.5m SingHealth patients stolen in worst cyber attack; July 21).

A preliminary assessment shows we are not ready.

As even the Pentagon needs to constantly worry about cyber espionage, how would the Integrated Health Information Systems, a healthcare vendor, be able to do any better?

Telling us that our information will be uploaded but access will be granted to only specific people is not protecting our privacy.

Empower patients to decide what goes into the database, and let us take the responsibility of updating our doctors when necessary.

Peter Chen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2018, with the headline 'Let patients decide what goes into national health database'. Print Edition | Subscribe