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National eHealth Authority to enforce patient data privacy & security


The Government is setting up a National eHealth Authority for the promotion of eHealth standards said the Minister of Health and Family Welfare in a reply to a question in the Lok Sabha about the steps being taken to improve the system of prescriptions online. The agency will be responsible for enforcing privacy and security measures for electronic health data, and to regulate storage and exchange of Electronic Health Records (EHR).

Setting up an authority to ensure consumer privacy with reference to health data has been a long overdue measure, although it’s not clear how long the Government will take to draft guidelines and get the agency up and running. Just last week we reported about a Mumbai-based pathology lab that callously published medical test results of over 43,000 people online without securing it or clearing personal identifiers, and it is imperative that the Government take measures to stop such practices.

Online registration & health records in Govt hospitals

The ministry also said that Online Registration System (ORS) for patients has been implemented in 56 state and central government hospitals. The ORS platform allows hospitals and institutes to provide online registration and online appointment services to patients, while letting patients view medical reports online. According to Government data, there are well over 35,000 hospitals in the country, all of which will eventually be expected to have online records.

Additionally, government hospitals and Community Health Centers (CHCs) are introducing the Hospital Management Information System (HMIS) for the creation of Electronic Health Records (EHR), in a phased manner. The EHR must include disease classification, medicine and clinical terminology, laboratory data exchange, digital imaging and communication, unique identifiers for patients preferably by linking to Aadhaar etc., for interoperability. The HMIS website states that currently around 1.98 lakh health facilities are reporting data to it every month.

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The Ministry also mentions that it is providing financial support to Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, to implement these features in Government hospitals this year. It’s not clear how large this fund is, how many hospitals it will cover, or when the other states will get funding.

Other than this, the Ministry will also undertake the National Telemedicine Network scheme that will interlink health centers & district hospitals with medical colleges and super speciality hospitals for providing tele-consultations and tele-follow up prescriptions in rural areas.

Also read: Drug Committee suggests regulation of online pharmacies via portal

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