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Electronic system to eliminate long waits for medical records

Friday, September 05, 2014    

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A new electronic medical report database is expected to eliminate lengthy waits for medical records from the island's public health institutions.

Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson says some $50 million has been allocated for the pilot project and that a consultant has already been engaged.

"Our expectation is that we will be able to move on the four Centre of Excellence and four regional hospitals and as we roll out we expect it to get more costly," Ferguson told the Jamaica Observer recently.

However, he noted that over time the gains of having electronic medical records that will protect patients' confidentiality will be well worth the money spent.

Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer Dr Kevin Harvey explained that the delay in processing medical records is not solely as a result of the current paper-based system, but is compounded by the fact that doctors are rotated from one institution to another.

"When the doctors rotate we sometimes have a challenge in getting the doctor who initially saw the patient to write the medical report," he said.

"But with the electronic system the records will be more easily managed and accessible," Dr Harvey added.

Another reason for the delay, he explained, is when there is a need for autopsy reports and various other adjuncts that need to be provided.

"We recognise it as a problem and we are looking to streamline medical records systems in various hospitals, and in particular the bigger hospitals have this challenge, and so we are trying to address it through an electronic system," he said.

Sheryl Dennis, legal officer in the health ministry, said while the ministry is aware of challenges it always uses its best effort to expedite the process.

"When the records are requested through our offices, we ask the region and hospitals to do an investigation and provide us with the medical records, then we review them and forward to the Attorney General's chambers for follow-up," she said.

— Ingrid Brown

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