Establishing Norway in the world elite
When the Northern Norway Regional Health Authority and DIPS AS give all patients in our northernmost health region electronic access to their patient records, they will also be establishing Norway in the world elite in terms of patient empowerment.
The European Patients’ Forum (EPF) defines Estonia as being the EU country that is most advanced with respect to giving patients access to their medical records, as its service has been open to patients since 2009. Ninety-nine per cent of Estonia's 1.3 million inhabitants have access to their records online. However, in June this year, the service still didn't have more than 100,000 unique users per year. The reason the service is not used more is that health personnel struggle to find the time to adapt the information provided online well enough for the patients.
- They are also pretty far ahead in in Finland, Denmark and Sweden. We also see good initiatives in Spain, Greece and Serbia, but the recession in Europe has slowed this development down, says Walter Atzori, Senior Programme Officer of the EU organisation European Patients’ Forum. EPF works to give patients more power over their own treatment. To enable them to be active recipients of health services and have a greater say in the decisions that are made concerning their treatment and medication. Access to their records is an important step in this context.
Norway is in the world elite with respect to health technology, and it is able to invest resources in this area. We are keen to see what significance the work that is now being carried out in Northern Norway has for the region as well as for the rest of the country.
Granting access to electronic journals requires a good support service so that patients know where to turn if they have questions about the information they read, says Atzori.
He believes that it is also important to allow patients to write in their own records, not least to correct any inaccuracy or errors.
Sweden has been working since 2012 to give patients electronic access to records region by region. The service currently varies somewhat. Some regions have not introduced the service yet, in others it is only open to patients at one specific hospital, or for particular documents, e.g. children's vaccinations. In regions such as Uppsala, Sørmland and Västmanland, patients can read their whole somatic patient record online, including lab results, but no patient record documents are yet available online from psychiatric hospitals.
Min pasientjournal (my patient record) in the Northern Norway health region provides access to all documents that can be shown in DIPS, both from somatic and psychiatric patient records. What cannot be shown, however, are documents from certain specialist systems which are yet to be integrated in the solution. Examples include lab results, X-rays and birth/postnatal records.
- Asking who has access to electronic records is almost a philosophical question, as everyone defines it differently. Technical issues mean that there are great differences between countries and hospitals with respect to what patients can see. We have found out that what we are doing is very similar to what the Swedes are doing, although they don't include psychiatry, and we, for example, don't have lab results,' explains project manager for electronic access to patient records in the Northern Norway health region, Tove Sørensen.
Min Pasientjournal' is a very important breakthrough in the development of ICT in the Norwegian health service says CEO Tor Arne Viksjø of DIPS ASA.
Together with the other initiatives 'My Record' and the 'Western Norway Patient system', it places Norway in the driving seat with respect to patients' access to their own health information in Europe. This is also a huge boost to the Norwegian health service and an important step in the direction of 'the patient's health service', where patients have more knowledge of their own health and can participate more in their own treatment. At the same time, the risk of patients receiving the wrong treatment is reduced, as the patient is involved in quality assuring the content of the record along with the hospital.