SINGAPORE – A new Bill will be tabled in the second half of 2023 to better safeguard the sharing of patient information across different healthcare providers to pave the way for Singapore’s switch to a new healthcare model based on prevention.
“Given the sensitivities surrounding health information, and the consequences of misuse, stringent requirements must be placed on the collection, use and sharing of health information,” said Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary on Friday during the debate on the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) budget.
Announced in 2022, the Health Information Bill will also seek to enable the collection of patients’ selected health data from healthcare providers, and to allow healthcare providers to share health and administrative data with one another for specific purposes.
Such data sharing will enable the roll-out of Healthier SG, which allows Singapore residents to choose a dedicated general practitioner to manage their health.
Healthier SG is slated to kick off in July, starting with those who are at least 60.
The move to have people see a dedicated family physician comes as Singapore shifts to a healthcare model based on prevention, instead of reactively caring for those who are already sick.
Noting that he agreed with Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC), who had raised concerns about the need for data sharing to enhance patient care, Dr Janil said it is critical for healthcare providers to be able to access and share standardised health information across different settings, to allow for the provision of “uninterrupted and holistic care”.
For example, data sharing between general practitioners (GPs) and obstetricians will allow for women with pre-diabetes – who will be at greater risk of developing gestational diabetes – to be more easily identified, he added.
“If she does develop the condition during pregnancy, she will have a higher risk of developing diabetes within the next five years after delivery, so her regular GP will need to know about what happened and work with her on preventive measures to keep diabetes at bay,” said Dr Janil.
He noted that data sharing would allow for the seamless provision of care in such situations.
While protections are already in place under the Personal Data Protection and Cybersecurity Acts governing the use of health information, more will still need to be done, said Dr Janil, who is also Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information.
MOH is working with the Personal Data Protection Commission and the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore to identify areas where safeguards would need to be strengthened.
The ministry has also consulted healthcare professionals, patients and IT vendors on data privacy and sharing issues.
“The views gathered are helping us shape the Bill to address our policy intent, the needs of patients, and the administrative and operational costs to providers,” he said.