Health-record app puts patients’ health records at doctors’ fingertips

24th May 2013 By: Anine Kilian - Contributing Editor Online

Health insurance provider Discovery Health launched the first electronic health-record application of its kind in South Africa last year, called HealthID, which is currently available on the Apple iPad and will be Android compatable this year.

The electronic health record is at the heart of the application and stores valuable clinical information derived from claims data and pathology laboratories.

Doctors can access their patients’ details of previous medical consultations with other doctors and at hospitals. They can also view the medical history of their patients, such as previously prescribed medication and blood-test results, as well as other information, such as blood pressure and body mass index scores.

Discovery Health believes that HealthID will do for the healthcare sector what the ATM did for banking.

“HealthID will bring a complete medical history into the consultation process, which will have a significant impact on the quality of care provided by doctors,” says Discovery Health CEO Dr Jonathan Broom- berg, adding that it will reduce the administrative burden on doctors, as they have the patient’s information at their fingertips.

“This will enable doctors to apply online for chronic medicines and prescription medica- tions, and provide real-time approval, with access to the medicines covered. “They also have access to those medicines that are covered in full by their patients’ Discovery Health medical scheme plan,” he says.

Often, patients cannot remem- ber the last time they suffered from a particular disease or, in the case of elderly patients, all the medication that they are taking. Discovery belieives that HealthID will close this critical gap in knowledge for patients and doctors.

An important aspect of HealthID is the protection of a patient’s right to privacy. Only once a patient has given his or her consent in writing, can a doctor use HealthID to access that patient’s health records.

Patients also have to give prior consent to each doctor treating them, including referrals, for doctors to access their medical information on HealthID. This enables patients to choose which doctors can access their health records.

“It is a powerful tool for the patient, the doctor and the medical scheme. Medical practice today should be about an effective doctor-patient relationship and the more the doctor can access technology to limit the time spent on administrative tasks, the better his or her relationship is with his or her patients,” says general practitioner Dr Michael Setzer.

“We are highly cognisant of patients’ rights to confidentiality and privacy. “Over the two years it took to develop the HealthID, we consulted extensively with legal and bioethics advisers and other stakeholders on patient confidentiality,” says Broomberg, adding that the application’s consent and disclosure pro- cess meet the requirements of key experts in this field.

Currently, the consent and disclosure process enables doctors to access patients’ medical history and information using HealthID once they have obtained patients’ prior legal consent through a signed consent document.

The consent is only valid for as long as patients want it to be. Patients have the right to change or withdraw their consent at any time by contacting Discovery.

The health insurance provider is aware that issues of confidentiality and disclosure pertaining to medical information are complex, subjective and dynamic.

“Therefore, the HealthID consent and disclosure process is a constant work in progress and we will continuously update the consent process, based on ongoing advice from experts and our stakeholders,” Broomberg says.

Meanwhile, Emergency HealthID is also available to Discovery Health members.

“This is a unique QR (quick response) code or a matrix barcode, or a two-dimensional code readable by QR scanners, mobile phones equipped with cameras and smartphones for each individual Discovery member.

“Members can place personalised QR-code stickers on their cars, phones or children’s lunch boxes,” he explains. In an emergency, Emergency HealthID allows authorised paramedics to scan the QR code and gain potentially life-saving information on the identity of the patient, the next of kin, allergies and other critical health information, Broomberg says.