Thu, Jan 22, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Groups protest health record plan

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

A draft amendment that seeks to require all medical records be transcribed in Mandarin Chinese yesterday faced stiff resistance from the Taiwan Medical Association (TMA) and representatives from dozens of medical groups.

“Last week, a number of civic groups demanded that the Ministry of Health and Welfare draw up a timetable to develop a system for putting medical records in Mandarin, unnerving the entire medical community,” Chen Meng-hsiung (陳夢熊), a standing director on the association’s board of directors, told a joint news conference in Taipei.

Chen said the issue was broached in 2012, but has been shelved since then because, without supplementary measures, the language requirement would have a heavy impact on doctors and patients.

Even if medical records were documented in Mandarin, Chen said patients would still have a hard time understanding them without a physician explaining the diagnoses or treatments.

“Much like with a court ruling that is written in Chinese — few people without a law degree can fully grasp the context,” Chen added.

The draft amendment to revise Article 12 of the Physicians Act (醫師法) was proposed last month by Democratic Progressive Party legislators. It would require doctors to transcribe the date of diagnosis, examined items and results, as well as treatments or medications, in Mandarin.

Taiwan Pediatrics Association secretary-general Lee Ping-ing (李秉穎) said that the proposal would not likely help improve communication between doctors and patients because medical records alone are not enough to make patients understand their condition.

“Also, the transition requires excessive time and energy that would be better spent on improving patient education,” he said.

Participants in the news conference issued a joint statement detailing the reasons for their disapproval of the plan.

First, the purpose of medical records is to ensure smooth communication among healthcare practitioners, rather than between doctors and patients, the statement said.

In addition, the Physicians Act already obligates physicians to clearly inform patients of their diagnoses and treatment, while letting patients apply for a Chinese-language medical abstract — which sufficiently safeguards patients’ right to know, it said.

“Moreover, the proposed plan could cause Taiwan’s medical technologies to lag behind global trends. It also would not help lower the number of medical disputes,” it said.

Downplaying the issue, Department of Medical Affairs official Lu Nien-tzu (呂念慈) said the agency attached great importance to patients’ right to know and have set up a number of regulations that require medical institutions to provide significant medical documents in Mandarin.

“The ministry has also set up a medical record and patient information committee that has and will continue to safeguard patients’ fundamental rights,” Lu said.

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