Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman .
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman promised on Wednesday to advance the idea of a personal smartcard that would contain all of patients’ personal medical information while protecting their privacy and rights for use at hospitals and community clinics.
“Data is half of medical treatment,” he told a session of the Knesset Science and Technology Committee that focused on medical records. The card would include not only medical histories, a list of medications and test results but also scans, X rays and information on allergies.
Even in nonemergencies, said Litzman, patients don’t always remember what medications they are taking or their medical history. A personal medical card could be an important solution for the health of the patient and make it possible for him to get the best care, he said.
Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov added that there are senior physicians in the health system who already use daily a computerized system with shared data that saves lives. Until now, he said, medical information has been held by a variety of sources, causing discontinuity of treatment and a lack of information transfer from the hospitals to the health funds, especially after a patient’s hospitalization. “We are developing the next generation of information sharing, and we will always keep in mind the value of privacy.”
Prof. Ran Balicer, director of the Clalit Health Services’ research institute and health policy planning department, explained that other countries’ health systems have adopted the system developed in Israel and regard it as an outstanding way to make medical information accessible to the doctor at the proper time.
“It is not perfect, and one can’t provide access to private doctors not connected to the national network.
However, in the vast majority of treatments provided within the public system, it is the answer; one can’t manage without it,” he said.
The head of the ethics bureau of the Israel Medical Association, Dr. Tami Karni, stressed that privacy of medical information must be supreme.
“We support a smartcard that the patient will carry with him, and when he goes to a doctor, he will decide whether to give it to the doctor or not. It will enable him to get food care wherever he is and provide [him with] full control of who will be able to see it,” she said, “but it must be clear that the law does not allow doctors who do not treat patients to enter the medical file.”
Meretz MK Michal Rozin said the public must be told that they have the option of not allowing a doctor to look at their medical data. “We know of at least one case in which a woman preferred to die rather than to expose her medical file. It’s unfortunate that there are people who prefer secrecy over life.”
Many medical tests are performed over and over because medical information is not accessible to all doctors, said Prof. Menahem Halperin, head of the emergency department at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. “If I see an X-ray done in the past, I will trust it and lab tests. If test results are not accessible and we have no ability to look at them, we will do them again in the emergency room.... Today, there are no excuses, and one can’t argue ‘I didn’t know,’ because technology makes it possible for me to get all the details.”
Committee chairman MK Uri Maklev of United Torah Judaism said that “cyber is one of the great challenges we face today. The personal card gives better protection, but it will be voluntary.”