Wednesday 16 October 2019

New health privacy legislation ‘unworkable and unsafe’, minister told

Photo: Darnyi Zsóka wikimedia commons

Health minister Bruno Bruins is postponing new healthcare privacy legislation on the grounds that it is too complex and could endanger life, the Financieele Dagblad reports.

From July 2020, patients were to have the right to choose which of the medical data in their electronic file is shared with other health professionals.

The minister has now been told by the advisory body ATR, which investigates the extra administrative pressures of new measures, that the proposed rules are unworkable and may even cost lives.

In the initial version of the privacy law patients were expected to give permission to share all their data. After protests from MPs that was changed to specified permission, which meant no fewer than 160 consent boxes had to be ticked. That was then brought back to 28 but, according to the ATR, patients are still left with far too many choices. It also found the measure was not legally sound.

The ATR said that patients may, ‘consciously or not’, refuse to give permission to share what might be essential information. ‘In the most extreme of cases this could lead to otherwise avoidable deaths,’ the ATV said in a letter to the minister.

The present situation is already causing problems, professor of laboratory medicine Wouter van Solinge told the paper. ‘An operation could end badly if a surgeon is not aware of the fact that a patient uses blood thinners,’ he said.

Van Solinge said the projected change of having patients choose which data they wish to keep from other doctors would be ‘potentially more dangerous still’ because doctors would go by the data they have been presented with without knowing the file is incomplete.   

The ATR also pointed out the new privacy rules could lead to legal claims in case a dangerous situation occurs as a result of a lack of data. It is unclear who is responsible, the patient or the healthcare institution, the ATR said.

Another way of protecting patients’ privacy would be one based on trust, the ATR said. Patients’ data would be shared as the healthcare institution deemed necessary while patients would be able to check afterwards who looked at the data and what was done with it.

The matter will be discussed in parliament on Wednesday.

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