Questions raised over medical data safety

As the Centre plans to set up a pan-Indian telemedicine backbone by connecting 35 medical colleges with six top-end medical resource centres, questions are being raised within the government on ways to protect confidential medical data from private entrepreneurs, who would play a key role in operationalising the network.

Friday (August 7) was the last date for the companies to submit their bids. The health ministry would now scrutinise the documents to finalise the vendor. The selected companies would not only have to create almost the entire computer hardware and software platform but also establish a local area network within the institute, and then hooking up the same to the National Knowledge Network–a dedicated high-bandwidth fibre optic line being set up by the government.

They would also have to provide integration software and update them during the project period for linking medical diagnostic equipment with telemedicine application software.

But are medical records safe in private hands? “There are concerns over the safety of medical records, source of many vital information, in the hands of the private players. We will have to come out with a solution to this problem, before the scheme is rolled out,” said an official, who attended a recent review meeting.

Over 2 lakh village are likely to benefit from the health ministry-backed National Medical College Network, once 35 medical colleges are linked to the regional resource centres.
The network seeks to facilitate consultation with specialists, exchange of medical records for better diagnosis, taking medical education classes continuously and sharing of books and journals.

Two hospitals from Karnataka present in the network are: Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences in Hubballi and Mandya Institute of Medical Sciences, Mandya.

As a precursor to the project roll out, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley proposed Rs 7 crore on a telemedicine awareness programme in the Supplementary Demands for Grants, which was passed by the Lok Sabha last week.

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