For providing better care to the patients in Singapore, all healthcare institutions will soon be required to provide data to the National Electronic Health Record (NEHR).
Gan Kim Yong, Health Minister of Singapore gave information that legislation will soon be introduced through a Healthcare Services Bill. He was addressing the first FutureHealth conference today at Nanyang Technological University’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine.
He said, “Patients can only realise the full potential of the NEHR if the data is comprehensive. And for NEHR data to be comprehensive, every provider and healthcare professional needs to contribute relevant data to it.”
He added, “MOH (Ministry of Health) therefore intends to take the next major step for the NEHR to require mandatory data contribution by all licensees, such as healthcare providers and laboratories, so as to improve data comprehensiveness for better patient care.”
NEHR is a platform that brings together patient records such as their medication and laboratory reports from different care providers. The information is shared across providers. It was set up in 2011.
Presently, sharing of data is voluntary and most of the public health institutions contribute to patient data. However, only about 3 per cent of private healthcare licensees, including general practitioners, private hospitals and nursing homes, are contributing to the national repository.
About one in five general practitioners (GPs) today still do not have an IT system, according to a survey by the Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS), the MOH’s IT arm.
Low Cheng Ooi, MOH’s chief medical informatics officer, said, “As our healthcare landscape evolves, it is important for clinicians to obtain a view of their patients’ medical history from the NEHR to make better-informed diagnoses and treatment decisions.”
Health authorities of Singapore plan to make data submission a licensing requirement under a new Healthcare Services Bill expected to be tabled in Parliament in the second half of next year.
The data which needs to be submitted will depend on the nature of the health service. For instance, a typical GP clinic will be asked to share its patients’ demographics, number of visits, diagnoses, allergies, medications prescribed and procedures they have undergone, where applicable.
Bruce Liang, IHiS chief executive officer, said, “Some private practitioners have resisted coming on board due to costs of upgrading their IT systems and misconceptions that updating the records will call for more time and effort.”
To facilitate the transition process — which the authorities expect will take up to three years after proposed amendments are debated and passed — the MOH will offer funding support to help defray costs of upgrades or subscription fees incurred for licensees who start contributing to the NEHR by June 2019.
MOH will fund up to 40 per cent of system upgrades for private hospitals and nursing homes, clinical laboratories and radiological laboratories, capped at SGD200,000, SGD140,000 and SGD40,000 per system, respectively.
The IT arm of MOH will also offer technical support to vendors to ensure that their solutions are NEHR-ready, so that practitioners can contribute data seamlessly and securely. It will also advise practitioners on which solutions are most appropriate for them.