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Medical association urges patients to allow doctors access to health info

The Finnish Medical Association is calling for patients to not limit or deny physicians' access to medical details.

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Doctors need up-to-date information, FMA says. Image: AOP

The Finnish Medical Association (FMA) says that patients should think carefully before deciding to make their personal medical details hidden in the national database.

Finnish patients use a national data system called Kanta, whose services include electronic prescriptions, a pharmaceutical database and a patient data repository. A patient can set their personal information to be off limits to anyone but themselves.

The medical association says that vital information can be passed along quickly during emergencies using the system, and that patients should consider keeping their details available in the name of improved safety.

FMA chair Marjo Parkkila-Harju replied to questions about the Kanta service in regional paper ESS.

"As a doctor, I cannot know if information is missing from a patient's medical profile," Parkkila-Harju says. "Missing or hidden details might have to do with a person's medication, and how different medicines interact."

Privacy scare

The Kanta interface has raised eyebrows since its instatement in a number of phases; the personal data service Omakanta has been in use since 2010. Users have reported trouble understanding the rights to their information and knowing who is able to view it.

Data protection ombudsman Reijo Aarnio said early this year that some Kanta users may be using the database to snoop into their friends' or relatives' health details.

However, everyone has the right to control the use of the information pertaining to themselves personally, and restrictions may be placed on who may access sensitive data.

"Every time someone signs in to view medical information in the system, it leaves a digital mark that health care units can and must monitor," Parkkila-Harju adds.

Imperfect system aids doctors

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health reports that more than 2.8 million people have granted doctors access to their online medical files. Some 66,700 people are known to have restricted such access.

Parkkila-Harju says that Kanta has helped doctors in their work, but also changed it unexpectedly. Care notes were added to the system in 2014, and all prescriptions have been issued digitally since early 2016.

"Utilising the system isn't quite a daily routine in health care yet. The prescription process is used constantly, but detailed medical records are still trickling in," Parkkila-Harju says.

Doctors and nurses also need to assess what kind of language to use in the records, as information must be kept accurate but also understandable to patients themselves. Time is also a sensitive issue in cases where a diagnosis has been reached and runs the risk of getting recorded in the system before discussing it with the patient.

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