Heavy and lengthy medical records may soon be a thing of the past. The latest initiative by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) is aimed at creating an online portal where people will be able to update their health status in just a matter of a few clicks.
The MHFW’s “Personal Health Report” (PHR) system under the “Digital India” programme will allow people to maintain their daily health records online. The idea of PHR was conceived by the ministry on the lines of an already existing scheme—the Electronic Health Record (EHR) system —that the government started in 2014, to centralise patients’ health history across the country so that it can be accessed by hospitals whenever needed.
A source in the ministry working on PHR said, “It was thought to provide a single online personal medical record storage platform to citizens of India. Such a PHR platform will enable people to keep their own health records in one place to facilitate storage, access and sharing of personal health data.” Through a login id and password, individuals will be able to manage their own health record anytime and if needed, will be able to share their health history with their doctors that will replace the burden of having to carry physical files.
The PHR can prove beneficial in recovering medical records which might be lost in physical form. The data stored in a standardised format can be used for data analytics to understand disease trend etc., reduce medical error, improve patient compliance and can help patients in taking a second opinion without repeating tests. The PHR can act as an essential tool for telemedicine and can provide emergency medical records for unconscious/unattended patients. It will allow people to update their daily blood pressure, calories burned, weight gained or loss, minor health episodes etc., that will allow the individual to maintain their health status chronologically.
While the PHR can be maintained by people themselves on the portal, EHR is a collection of various medical records that gets generated during any clinical encounter or events. The larger EHR scheme, though much needed, hasn’t yet been able to reach beyond major cities of the country.
Jitendra Arora, e-health director, MHFW, said, “Large corporate hospitals are increasingly moving towards maintaining Electronic Health records (EHR) of their patients. However, these healthcare systems are highly complex, fragmented and use multiple information technology systems. Also, these records are not standardised. Hence, when a patient moves from one hospital to another, his electronic health record does not get exchanged. Currently in India, there are only a few health service providers, both from the public and private sectors, who have electronic medical record systems for patients. But these systems are mostly not as per the standards notified by the government and are not inter-operable.”
States such as Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Haryana have already made significant progress and started the creation of EHRs of patients in public health.
The MoHFW is also in the process of setting up the National eHealth Authority (NeHA) as a statutory body for promotion of e-Health standards, to enforce privacy and security measures for electronic health data, and to regulate storage and exchange EHRs.
Standardisation of e-Health data e.g. unique identifiers for patients preferably linked to Aadhaar, and facilities linked with National Identification number (NIN), is under progress. The MoHFW is also working to bring a comprehensive legislation for Electronic Health Data Privacy and Security in place to support the EHR system.
Sources in the Ministry said, “Another major stakeholder of digitalisation of medical records will be insurance companies. EHR will leave no room for false insurance claims made by people.” While this will benefit insurance companies, patients’ privacy might be compromised, hence the need for data privacy Act.