• 13 October 2017


    Posteado en : Reportage

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    Hospital medical records: much more than a storage space

    Representatives of the Ministry of Health, the Institute of Social Security and the Institute for Access to Public Information travelled to Madrid with the support of EUROsociAL+ to find out more in situ about the Spanish experience with managing hospital medical records

    When Margarita went to her Social Security hospital in El Salvador for her regular type 2 diabetes check-up, her medical record had disappeared. After hours of fruitless searching, she went in to see her doctor with a temporary (empty) file so that he could prescribe the appropriate medicines. Due to the lack of medical information, the doctor told her that he could not prescribe her glimepiride, one of the key drugs for treating her diabetes, until he had some accurate analyses of her medical condition. Margarita had to wait almost a month to get the result of the new clinical analyses, without receiving proper medication in the meantime. After nearly three months, the file was finally found, surprisingly, among the records of those who had died.


    Managing medical records properly is essential for improving the treatment of patients and the exercise of their rights, as well as the effective and efficient functioning of the healthcare system. However, this is a daunting task that requires confronting huge challenges, such as a lack of storage space or human and financial resources. At the same time, the patients’ personal details must be properly protected and the complex process of transferring the files from a paper format to an electronic one must be carried out in stages.


    Well aware of the pressing need to tackle this issue in El Salvador, the Institute for Access to Public Information (IAIP), the Ministry of Health (MINSAL) and the Salvadoran Institute of Social Security (ISSS) have joined forces with the aim of building the foundations for a new era in the management of medical records in this Central American country’s public healthcare sector.


    The EUROsociAL+ Programme, funded by the European Commission and managed by the FIIAPP, is helping El Salvador with this process. As a first step, between 25 and 28 September, representatives of the three Salvadoran institutions visited Madrid to find out about the progress made and the challenges faced by Spain in this area. For a week, they were able to exchange experiences and lessons learned with the Ministry of Health, Equality and Social Services, the Castilla-La Mancha Health Service (SESCAM), the Community of Madrid’s Hospital Clí­nico San Carlos, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports General Sub-Directorate of State Archives and the Spanish Data Protection Agency. The visit included a tour of the Hospital Clí­nico San Carlos archives and the Central Archives of the State Administration in Alcalá in addition to a presentation of the lessons learned from the Tunisian electronic file project headed by the FIIAPP and funded by the European Union.


    This activity was the first step in promoting inter-institutional dialogue in El Salvador, advancing toward creating operating instructions and new regulations, and promoting cultural change, which is needed in order to improve the quality of healthcare in this Central American country.


    Borja Díaz Rivillas, Senior Officer of Democratic Governance. EUROsociAL+

  • 15 September 2017


    Posteado en : Opinion

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    El Salvador faces a new era in medical record management

    Alicia Miranda Duke, head of studies and research at the Salvadoran Institute for Access to Public Information, describes the challenges to protecting patients’ healthcare information. The European Union programme EUROsociAL+ is contributing to this process by promoting the exchange of experiences between Latin American and European countries

    In El Salvador, few topics go as unnoticed in public and media agendas as the management of medical records. The irony is that these documents contain sensitive personal information on the health of thousands of people that should be protected with the highest quality standards. This issue is even more important in the public healthcare sector (Encuesta de Hogares de Propósitos Múltiples (Multi-Purpose Household Survey) 2014, DIGESTYC-MINEC).


    Between January and March 2017, the Institute for Access to Public Information (IAIP) carried out a series of interviews with key staff in the Ministry of Health (MINSAL) and the Salvadoran Social Security Institute (ISSS) to gather preliminary information on some aspects of document management and personal data protection. The information will help the IAIP, as the governing body in this area, to issue guidelines regarding these matters. A complex reality was revealed by these first interviews.


    In terms of standardisation, at least six documents were found that contain different criteria for handling medical records. However, there is no standard management process for the entire public sector. For example, filing documents has become a problem that is literally overwhelming the public health system. Although it is not the same at all care centres, there are warehouses in which these documents are stored with no other criterion than their weight in kilos.


    Another finding was that there is little or no knowledge about ARCO rights (Access, Rectification, Cancellation and Opposition to information). On the one hand, there are healthcare operators that do not guarantee full exercise of these rights and, on the other, users who do not demand them. But how to demand a right that is not known by those who must guarantee it?


    In the interviews, challenges in managing medical records appeared one after another. Almost all the interviewees agreed on the need to migrate to single electronic formats. Something that, among other benefits, would permit the interoperability of the information. In other words, having access to the medical history of a patient for an operation from wherever he or she might be. But although there are ample arguments in favour, the possibility of migrating collides with another reality: Implementing this would require a significant financial investment. Preliminary data, provided by both institutions, show that this would be an investment of approximately $40 million. But, even in a favourable scenario, standardising management does not end with migrating to an electronic format. In fact, whatever action is taken to implement it, at least two initial challenges must be faced.


    Firstly, standardising the documentary management and personal data protection of records that are currently kept on paper. In other words, what to do with what there is. Secondly, a commitment by all those involved in managing these documents, apart from the MINSAL operators.


    The IAIP, as the body governing document management and personal data protection, could simply issue guidelines and verify that they are complied with. But is this what interests us? Delimiting our involvement in these two actions would mean denying an extremely complex reality that finds expression in many dimensions. The management of medical records, in this case in the El Salvador public health sector, requires, first of all, an in-depth institutional dialogue that will permit the design of a path toward the necessary changes. To do this, it is also necessary to know how similar processes were developed in other countries in Latin America and the European Union. Otherwise, however well-designed the regulation is technically, it would not be sustainable over time.


    Alicia Miranda Duke is the head of studies and research at the Institute for Access to Public Information (IAIP) in El Salvador