Patient Info to Be Shared at Medical Facilities, Pharmacies

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry

A system through which some parts of patients’ electronic medical records could be shared and viewed at medical facilities and pharmacies across Japan is in the pipeline, according to a draft project schedule from the government. The project comes amid a government push for greater use of digital technology in health care settings.

Based on lessons learned during the novel coronavirus pandemic, the envisioned system aims to enable hospitals and local governments to quickly share patient information when an infectious disease is spreading rapidly or during other health emergencies, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The government’s Headquarters for Medical Digital Transformation (DX) Promotion, which is chaired by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, likely will approve the schedule as soon as next month.

According to the draft, a tentatively named “electronic medical record information sharing service” that can be used by medical facilities and pharmacies across the nation will be established. Initially, this service will enable details such as medical checkup results, allergy information and prescribed medication to be shared and viewed. The range of information shared through the system will gradually be expanded, although the draft does not indicate any target deadlines for such development. Patients will need to provide consent for their information to be included on the system.

The draft specifies the swift establishment of a mechanism that would make viewable information essential for providing emergency medical care — such as a patient’s medical history, chronic illnesses and allergies.

To help shift paperwork for nursing care services and medical expense subsidies online, the government will push to enable the sharing of some patient information with local authorities and nursing care providers. The government also will establish a system through which patients can confirm details such as the results of their medical tests on the government’s Mynaportal site, a special website that can be used with a My Number identification card.

The COVID-19 pandemic turned the sharing of patient information, such as medical history and medications administered, between hospitals and local governments into a pressing issue. The need to report patient information to public health centers also added to the workload borne by personnel at medical facilities. The government has been considering ways to improve information sharing process and reduce the burden for medical staff.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, more than 90% of large hospitals have already introduced electronic medical records, but this figure falls below 50% at small hospitals and medical clinics. In a bid to alleviate deep-rooted concerns that medical information could be leaked when shared, the government is preparing to carefully explain to the public the benefits of sharing this information, and the steps that will be taken to prevent unauthorized access to private data.