Major private player Parkway Pantai group to plug into national database of medical records

Parkway Pantai’s network of hospitals, clinics and labs sees about 600,000 patients a year.


Salma Khalik

Senior Health Correspondent

SINGAPORE – A database of medical records in Singapore – particularly useful in cases of emergency – will become even more comprehensive when Singapore’s largest private healthcare player plugs into the system.

Parkway Pantai, whose network of hospitals, clinics and labs sees about 600,000 patients a year, will add patient data to the National Electronics Health Records (NEHR) from November.

Launched in 2011, NEHR compiles patients records – including medical history and laboratory reports from different providers – which can be accessed by doctors and hospitals when a patient seeks treatment. Apart from emergency cases, this also helps patients with multiple problems who have been treated by different doctors.

Joining NEHR has been voluntary so far, but is set to become mandatory by end-2020. About one million searches are made each month. But almost all information that NEHR has on seven million patients – including foreigners – comes from the public sector. As at the end of last year, less than 5 per cent of private healthcare providers contributed patient data.

This means that a patient who has been seeing doctors only in the private sector would not have data in the system.

Should he have an emergency and is taken to a public hospital by ambulance, doctors there would not be able to access his medical history. This could delay treatment as tests might have to be repeated or information obtained from the patient or family.

But this will change when Parkway links its four hospitals, more than 50 clinics and laboratory and radiology services to the NEHR.

Parkway will also be encouraging 1,500 doctors from 750 clinics in medical centres linked to its hospitals to get onto the NEHR.

One of them, Dr Samuel Yeak, an ear, nose and throat specialist who has a clinic at Mount Elizabeth Novena, said he used NEHR when he worked in the public sector and found that knowing a patient’s medical history was definitely useful.

Cardiologist Ong Sea Hing who has a clinic at Parkway East Medical Centre said patients often come to him for a second opinion. “Having access to previous test results reduces a lot of duplication,” he said.

It also helps when patients are being treated by other doctors for chronic ailments. “You’ll be surprised at how little out patients know about their own health,” he added.

Parkway’s head of Singapore operations Phua Tien Beng said the move will empower patients whose medical records will no longer be in the custody of a particular hospital or clinic.

“Ultimately, the patients will benefit the most from this, and that is what matters,” he said.

Parkway will be spending about $1 million to link into NEHR.

It hopes to recover about a third the cost in early bird grants the Government is giving private healthcare facilities to encourage them to start contributing before the law that makes it mandatory kicks in. The Ministry of Health (MOH) has set aside $20 million for this.

Mount Alvernia Hospital, Raffles Medical and Thomson Medical all said they will be joining the system before the 2020 deadline. Farrer Park Hospital is still working out exactly when it will plug in.

Late last year, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said NEHR will be made mandatory as it “has the potential to save lives, and enables significantly better integrated care”.

The NEHR requires only core information, such as test results, discharge summaries, diagnoses and medications given, as well as patient profiles, including allergies.

Patients who do not want their information accessible on the NEHR have to request to opt out on forms available at all facilities.