Patients' data can pre-empt medical conditions

SINGAPORE - With a national database of patients' information in place, Singapore needs to make meaningful use of the health records to "proactively" care for people, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday.

Speaking at a healthcare informatics conference, he said that a repository of patient information can be used to "pre-empt adverse medical conditions and deterioration in the condition of the patient".

"The rapidly growing field of healthcare informatics requires close collaboration between health-care practitioners and IT (information technology) professionals," he said.

The National Electronic Health Record links the medical history of patients in a centralised database and makes the information accessible to health-care institutions.

It was successfully rolled out to 43 health-care institutions in phases between November last year and July this year.

Patients can seek medical treatment at any public hospital, polyclinic or specialist centre without the hassle of having to recount their medical history.

Medication errors and delays in treatment will also be minimised.

There are already plans to explore how data in the national records can be used, beyond providing just one-stop medical-record access to health-care institutions.

In April, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said there was a plan to give patients some access to their health information on the database. This is to allow them to better understand and manage their health, the ministry said.

MOH said patients would be able to interact and work with clinicians to better manage their treatment and keep themselves in optimum health.

Dr Chong Yoke Sin, chief executive of MOH's Integrated Health Information Systems, said that the national health database has moved beyond implementation to "provide meaningful and timely clinical-decision support, improve patient communications, reduce errors and improve delivery of high-quality care".

She said that, in the future, analysis of a patient's information could even be used to help health-care professionals prescribe the right medical "protocol" for patients.

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