EghtesadOnline: Iran’s push to establish a smart electronic healthcare system is on the cusp of bearing fruit, the health minister said.
Saeid Namaki added that only a few security glitches in the system need to be removed before Iran’s Electronic Health Record could become operational, Dolat.ir reported.
EHR is a joint project implemented by the ministry and Iran's Social Security Organization aimed at digitizing health services. It is a real-time, patient-centered digital record that makes information available instantly and securely to authorized users.
Namaki says the project is almost complete and will become operational as soon as the security concerns are addressed. He added that when it comes on stream, people can access their personal EHR through a smartphone application or a website using their national ID number, Financial Tribune reported.
EHR is based on a digital health database recently unveiled by SSO.
Hamidreza Safikhani, an official with the Health Ministry, says EHR will include the health history of around 70 million people.
"The database enables doctors to better understand the patients’ condition and history," he said.
Currently, for visiting a doctor, people with subscriptions can use the organization’s services by providing their national ID number. Doctors check the number on the database via the Internet.
Over recent years, SSO has been upgrading the database to make it more efficient.
In addition to the database, doctors can use digital health cards, also developed by the organization, to prescribe medicines. Instead of issuing written notes, the doctor will type the prescription on SSO’s site and the patient can receive the medicines from any pharmacy having a contract with the organization, which means most major pharmacies.
Each individual’s health history will be uploaded on the smart electronic cards. Doctors using specialized devices for reading the data stored on the card can access the patient’s health history without relying on the Internet.
The other measure complementing EHR is the use of digital signatures by physicians and electronic prescriptions for the patients.
Experts believe that the use of digital signature will also cut fraudulent actions and prevent the misuse of online prescriptions, along with the speedy processing and delivery of medicine in drugstores.
A digital signature identifies the signatory and authenticates the digital message or document with a digital code.
Technical requirements for the implementation of digital signature and electronic prescription have been met and the scheme can be run as a pilot for volunteer physicians and drugstores.
Physicians willing to digitize their services can visit Iran Medical Council's website, Irimc.org, and apply for a digital signature. To do this, they are required to enter their national ID and medical identification code in the application form.
Reportedly, the project is currently operational at SSO's medical centers in 27 provinces.
According to Safikhani, in the past three years, over 140 million digital prescriptions have been issued by physicians at the medical centers.
"The technical infrastructures of digital prescription will be further developed and finalized for widespread use by eight universities inside the country," he said.
In addition, knowledge-based companies active in the field of healthcare have also been invited for collaboration.
To attract technological companies and knowledge-based firms in the field, financial support has been earmarked to help achieve the goal of digitalization of health services.
Iran National Innovation Fund plans to grant 4 trillion rials ($33.8 million) to qualified teams and tech firms before the end of the current Iranian year (March 2020), a huge share of which is to be allocated to those active in medical fields.
INIF will also provide knowledge-based firms and startups with mentorship and legal services, as well as working spaces.
A Broader View
The Iranian government has focused on digitizing the country’s old data infrastructure with schemes to push both public and private providers to simplify several tasks, including the purchase of insurance.
Until now, Iran’s insurance companies had struggled to draw concise figures on specific medical complaints in the country. But under the new system, large amounts of data will be instantly available to both insurers and government bodies.
However, the push to overhaul the system could mean higher premiums for customers in the next few years, as the biggest health insurer could charge considerably more per policy, depending on the insured person’s medical conditions.