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February 21, 2024

Singapore’s Health Information Bill

health care
February 21, 2024

Singapore has introduced a health information bill which mandates healthcare providers to contribute patients’ data to the National Electronic Health Records (NEHR), with planned enforcement slated for the end of 2025.

The Bill’s primary goals include ensuring the accuracy and accessibility of health information for healthcare providers, facilitating seamless information exchange to support continuity of patient care, and establishing essential data security and cybersecurity measures. Healthcare providers encompass licensed medical professionals and non-licensed entities like retail pharmacies, subject to approval by the Ministry of Health (MoH). Access to patient data is limited, allowing medical professionals access only to relevant information for patient care and only for patients under their care. Severe non-compliance such as disclosure of a patient’s sensitive health data would result in penalties ranging from a fine of 1 million SGD (US$743,000) to 10 percent of the provider’s annual turnover, based on which option is of higher value under Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA).

Although the NEHR was established in 2011, its utilization has been limited, with only 15 percent of private healthcare providers currently making use of the database. The collected data on the NEHR includes a minimum set of patient health information typically required by healthcare providers, including demographics, medical history, operating theatre notes/procedures/treatments (e.g., endoscopy, surgical reports), medications, and discharge summaries. Sensitive information such as HIV infection, schizophrenia, substance abuse, abortion, and contraceptive use will be subject to additional controls and safeguards to ensure privacy and confidentiality.

While significant and ambitious, challenges remain in ensuring doctors have access to adequate technical support to navigate through the system, addressing concerns over additional time taken for recording data which could otherwise be allocated to patient care, and establishing clear eligibility criteria for accessing patients’ data.

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