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Health sector: patients are in charge of their own medical records

Happy New Year – and may it be a healthy one, too! As 2019 begins, this is the warm wish that our teams are sending out to all users of the Belgian ID application, itsme. It makes sense, too, because itsme has always combined security and confidentiality. And, let’s face it, what could be more confidential than details about our health?

There are all sorts of reasons for this. We might, for instance, want to switch to a new GP. In which case, what happens to our medical records? Unfortunately, they don’t necessarily just “follow” us to our new doctor, which means we would have start all over again. And that’s just the beginning. Because in addition to our visits to see the GP, there are consultations with specialists, plus, of course, any time spent in hospital. In an ideal world, all of this information should follow the patient so that each medical practitioner, whether we see them for an ordinary consultation or as an emergency, has the benefit of a complete and up-to-date overview of our health records. Today, thanks to digitisation, the solution exists with the Summarised Electronic Health Record, which specialists also call “Sumehr”. But whatever you call it, it is essential for sensitive shared information such as medical records to comply with extremely strict rules in terms of data security and protecting the privacy of both the patient and the healthcare provider. Not to mention respecting medical confidentiality. All of these points have now been dealt with by itsme – now all we have to do is convince patients.

To make this happen, the federal government has speeded up the process for giving patients access to their own information. With the help of the itsme application, they can go straight to the federal MyHealth portal where they will find the results of their tests, details of their current prescriptions, past and future vaccines – and so on. And when they do so, they will also see and appreciate the level of security in place to protect their data. For example, it is impossible for a healthcare provider to access a patient’s medical records if he/she is unable to establish a link in relation to the patient’s treatment. So, if a doctor is asked by an employer to obtain information or someone working for an insurance company or health fund wants a patient’s details, they will simply come up against a brick wall. That’s because the patient holds the keys to his/her health records. With itsme, it is the patient who gives permission for this or that information to be shared with a particular medical professional. And the patient can also find out at any time who has consulted what and when. In the end, the patient is the winner, benefiting from continuity of care while maintaining complete control over the data exchanged – while being able to consult his/her own details at any time.

This major step forward in patient records – which benefits everyone involved – is part of the far-reaching move towards digitisation in the health sector. More than other areas in our lives, health is considered sensitive because of the confidentiality of the data it generates. Accessing that data needs to be uncomplicated, but highly secure at the same time. Which is what has prompted a number of insurance companies (Axa, Les AP, AG Insurance and others) and health funds (Partenamut and OmniMut, part of Mutualités Libres) to adopt itsme.

At the end of December, the number of users of the itsmeapplication was over 730,000, or a little over 10% of the Belgian population aged between 20 and 64.