According to a plan by the Beijing Municipal Health Commission, 30 hospitals in the capital are to share digital medical records with one another so that doctors from any of the hospitals will have access to patient records including past illnesses as well as checkups and treatment they received.
Usually in China medical records are only kept at hospitals where patients have visited. The personal account of patients in regard to their diseases is thus a key way for doctors at different hospitals to learn about their illnesses. As a result, many hospitals require patients to repeat the same medical procedures and tests they have already received at another hospital in order to reach the correct diagnosis. These repetitive checks are not only a waste of patients' money, time and energy, but can also delay treatment.
Medical records are also important evidence for judging whether a doctor's treatment is appropriate. In China the medical records of inpatients are strictly managed, but those of outpatients are kept by the patients themselves. The establishment of the new system will enable the sound management of both inpatient and outpatient medical records, therefore helping resolve disputes between doctors and patients when they arise.
The trial in Beijing is a good start, and the practice will hopefully be promoted nationwide to enable each patient to have complete access to their medical records so as to facilitate the process of seeking medical services in the country.
(This is an edited excerpt of an article published in Guangming Daily on August 7)