NL: Exchange of patient information and healthcare risks - Health Care Inspectorate's urgent call for clear standards
2 - Summary:
In a recently released report entitled 'State of Healthcare 2011', the Dutch Health Care Inspectorate urges the healthcare industry to work on the development of comprehensive standards for the exchange of patients' medical information with the purpose of reducing the healthcare risks caused by inadequate information exchange between healthcare professionals.
3 - Description:
The report examines the link between the healthcare risks entailed by information sharing problems on the one hand and the role of ICT on the other. The main finding is that the healthcare risks resulting from poor information sharing cannot be automatically prevented by ICT. What matters first is to put the base in order.
The Health Care Inspectorate (Inspectie voor de Gezondheidszorg, in Dutch) firstly raises the basic need for clear agreements on what type of medical information is relevant to share. Once this prior step has been taken, agreements on the storage and sharing of this information will be needed in order to enable the actual sharing via IT systems.
In the report's foreword the Inspectorate observes that in many institutions patient records are often outdated and incomplete, and they do not always contain the information that is important for health professionals. Within a single institution, information about the same patient is fragmented and stored in different systems that do not interoperate. In addition, data expected to be identical in these systems do not always match. This poses risks in terms of patient safety. In order to reduce such risks, the Inspectorate stresses that there should be a single file for each patient.
As well functioning information exchange can yield important benefits for patients, current structural bottlenecks need to be resolved with priority, the Health Inspectorate points out. The definition of comprehensive norms and standards by the healthcare industry should address the following aspects:
In order to speed up and support this process, the Inspectorate suggests that the Ministry of Health appoint a committee or a task force.
Lastly, the report recommends that a greater role be given to patients in the exchange of information between caregivers. Legal regulations already enable patients to prevent the sharing of their medical records online. The Inspectorate suggests that the explicit permission of the patient also be a prerequisite to the exchange of their medical information between the healthcare professionals involved.
4 - Domain:
5 - Topic:
Electronic health records
Health risk management
Hospital information systems
ICT for patient safety
Regional/national Health Information Networks
7 - Country:
13 - Sector:
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