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Japan: Internet Used to Guard Medical Records from Disaster
Source: yomiuri.co.jp
Source Date: Tuesday, October 09, 2012
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Country: Japan
Created: Oct 16, 2012

A staff member inputs patient information on a tablet computer at the Wing nursing home in Osato, Miyagi Prefecture. The information is instantly backed up on the Internet.

SENDAI--Medical and nursing facilities, which lost patients' medical records in the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami last year, are making efforts to protect future data by storing it on the Internet.

Because of the loss of the medical records, hospitals and nursing facilities in the disaster-hit regions are trying to store medical records on inland servers so doctors and caregivers can access the records even in the event of a disaster.

The storage system utilizes cloud computing. The system has already been put to practical use in disaster-hit areas, and the central government has supported forming cloud computer networks around the country. However, some experts are concerned about personal information leaking.

The disaster in March last year resulted in the loss of records at many medical institutions. According to Miyagi Prefecture's medical association, 163 facilities, or 90 percent of hospitals and clinics in the prefecture badly damaged in the disaster, lost their medical records.

When Shizugawa Hospital in Minami-Sanriku in the prefecture, which was destroyed by tsunami, resumed seeing patients at an evacuation center shortly after the disaster, about 300 to 400 patients a day sought treatment. The majority of them were suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Physician Masafumi Nishizawa, 40, said, "It was confusing because we had to rely on patients' memories about what medicine they had been taking."

In light of this, the medical association, Tohoku University and others have established the Miyagi Medical and Welfare Information Network, aiming at sharing records by forming information networks among medical institutions and care facilities.

In the prefecture's Ishinomaki and Kesennuma districts, more than 50 facilities, including hospitals, clinics, care facilities and drugstores, are scheduled to be connected from next spring.

Each facility plans to store its electronic records not only at the facility but also on inland backup servers after obtaining consent from patients and people concerned. The 1.39 billion yen operating cost will be covered by central government subsidies.
At Wing, a specialty nursing home that opened in Osato, Miyagi Prefecture, in April, the records of about 100 people in the home are stored on the Internet.

Ko Kimura, 35, a caregiver at the home, input "took antihypertensive at 1 p.m." on a patient's chart, which was displayed on a tablet computer, and sent it to a dedicated site.

The doctor who visits the home once a week for consultations with patients, can easily access the state of his patients from the information sent to the site by staff and uses it to better treat the patients.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is working to create a system to allow records to be mutually accessible by forming networks between a central hospital and surrounding medical institutions at a dozen locations throughout the country this fiscal year.

Government subsidies cover about 50 percent of the costs necessary for the network, and about 950 million yen has been budgeted for the projects.

Saving records on the Internet makes it easy to access data, but there is a risk of leakage through hacking and other means.

The ministry has proposed such safety measures as frequently changing IDs and passwords for those with access to the records or introducing a biometric security system.

Shigeo Kunii, deputy manager at Tohoku University Hospital's Medical IT Center, pointed out concerns over security deficiencies for medical records stored on the Internet. "If operations are improved, concerns about security will be removed and the system will spread rapidly," he said.
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