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Japan to build network to share medical info

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to build an Internet-based network that would allow medical institutions nationwide to share patients’ medical treatment and drug prescription records ― a move that is also likely to make it easier for patients to switch hospitals or leave one to recover at home, according to ministry officials.

The network will be compiled with so-called receipt computers ― PCs equipped with medical receipt-making software used by most medical institutions and pharmacies ― allowing hospitals and clinics across the country to view patients’ medical records as needed. The ministry aims to make the network operational by the end of fiscal 2018.

About 89,000 institutions, or 80 percent of the hospitals and clinics nationwide, have already digitized medical receipts, including such information as the patient’s name, ailment, treatment and surgery, and drugs prescribed.

According to the ministry, the network will be built starting on a region-to-region basis. Hospitals, clinics and pharmacies in the same regional network would make certain data available online after obtaining patients’ consent. This would enable a doctor who has taken over a patient’s treatment from another doctor to view his or her medical records.

The nationwide network will be built by linking such regional networks, the ministry said.

It plans to study whether blood-sugar levels and other blood test data not found on medical receipts should be made available on the network.

The ministry will ensure that records are kept of viewers of such data will be kept to prevent wrongful use. It will also subscribe to a high-security Internet service provider to address privacy concerns, it said.

As the network will be continually updated with each patient’s data, it can be used as his or her “electronic lifetime medical record,” according to the ministry. 

(The Japan News)