Sun, Jul 16, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Forum addresses problems in privacy of medical records

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A forum on medical confidentiality was held on Friday to address the issue of managing patients' medical information and how patients' privacy can be better protected.

As more and more hospitals use computers to store patients' medical histories, the ability to fully guarantee that patients' privacy is ensured has become an issue, said secretary of the Hospital Administration Commission under the Department of Health Huang Chin-hsing (黃進興) at the forum held in Taipei.

To ensure patients' privacy, hospitals may consider reinforcing the control over access to their databases, said Lai Chin-hsin (賴金鑫), chairman of a nonprofit organization promoting information exchange between hospitals.

Drawing on his experience of working as the chief of the information division at National Taiwan University Hospital, Lai said hospitals should grant staff different access based on where and how they log into databanks.

He suggested that information that can be accessed be divided into three categories: general treatment, emergency treatment and transfer.

Director for the Tri-service General Hospital's information division Huang Yuan-chieh (黃援傑) also suggested that more control measures should be placed on employees who are soon to leave their posts, such as limiting their access to medical databases one week prior to their departure.

Although current laws such as the Doctor's Law (醫師法) and the Medical Treatment Law (醫療法) have prohibited medical staff from revealing patients' personal information, an amendment to the Law for the Protection of Computer-managed Personal Information (電腦處理個人資料保護法) is still being review in the Legislative Yuan.

If passed, the amended law will expand regulations to cover personal information on a patient's sex life, medical history, genetic profile, health examinations, criminal record and contact information.

Over the past two years alone, there have been several incidents in which patients' medical information was leaked in violation of the laws.

For instance, former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) tuberculosis infection was disclosed by the Chinese-language China Times in a report in April.

The paper was subsequently fined NT$90,000 by the Taipei City health department for infringing on Lee's privacy.

Another incident took place earlier this year when a noted child abuse victim donated her organs after death.

Several media carried personal information of the recipient in reports.

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