This week I’m navigating the steps to register as a patient (recipient of care) in the electronic health record (EHR) in Hong Kong. The system was fully launched on 13 March 2016 and it allows for health information sharing between both public and private health care providers.
I was curious to experience the registration process first-hand. What I am surprised about is that in a city where so many things are convenient, registering for the electronic health record definitely took some individual initiative and effort.
Because it is a multi-step process that involves paperwork, I thought I would share my personal experience so that you know what to expect.
Why You Should Register for the Electronic Health Record
The primary reason, is if the electronic health record is used correctly, it can result in better care. For example, if you have a medication allergy, your allergy should be recorded (and updated) in the same shared system. Ideally, wherever you go to receive care, your healthcare providers have the same record of your allergy. The same principle applies for all your medications and test results.
This means that healthcare providers can see your complete health history which could result in a more timely diagnosis and should reduce duplication of test results.
As a former hospital pharmacist, the electronic health record is absolutely essential when patients are very sick or incapacitated. It gives the doctors, pharmacists, and nurses valuable life-saving information when you or a family member are unable to provide important health information.
Bottom line is that everyone in Hong Kong should be registered in the electronic health record.
So now that you’ve decided it’s important for you and your family’s health to register in the electronic health record, let’s walk through the process step-by-step.
Choose Your Mode of Registration
Online was my preferred way to register. For Hong Kongers who regularly visit health providers enrolled in the electronic health record it’s simplest to register in person. Alternatively you can complete your registration online or by mail. The advantage of registering in person, which I wasn’t initially aware of, is that you can “register” and “activate” your registration in a single in-person visit.
Note that you must be aged 16 or above to register online. Parents and select substitute decision makers can make online submissions on behalf of those in their care.
Once you click online submission, follow the links until a page with a lengthy description and instructions. Input the validation code at the bottom of this page.
What You Need to Register
You’ll need to have your Hong Kong ID card, your address, email, and phone number available for registration. For some reason the system said I had an invalid mobile number so I chose to receive notifications by email.
The default setting is for you to receive a notification every time your electronic health record is accessed. For most people who receive frequent healthcare, you can select the box “I refuse to receive notification whenever my eHR has been accessed”. Otherwise you’ll be getting text messages or emails everytime you go to the doctor, hospital, or dentist. If you value being made aware of any access to your health information then you should opt to receive notifications. There will of course be internal processes to prevent unauthorized access to your health information, but many people will want to know when their health information is accessed.
The online registration only took 5 minutes. Now you have to activate your registration in person.
Activate Your Electronic Health Record Registration
You have two options for activation: activate with a registered healthcare provider (e.g., doctor, dentist) or visit a government registration centre (e.g., Hospital Authority, Department of Health).
This week I had to visit my dental clinic, and I asked if I could activate my registration. Unfortunately, the clinic has not joined the electronic health record system, so I went to register at the Queen Mary Hospital, since it’s close to my office. A full list of activation locations is available here.
I arrived at the specialist clinic building (S Block) and waited in line for about 5 minutes. Then the clerk confirmed all my registration information. Finally, I received a confirmation letter which contains an access key that I would share with my health care providers. Once a health care provider has my access key, they can then view my health information contained in the electronic health record.
Overall the process was fairly painless and took a total of 15 minutes, excluding the time taken to make a special trip for activation. Now I’ll just need to remember to provide my personal access code to my health professionals in advance of my next clinic visit!