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Medicine database could allow doctors to see patients’ past prescriptions

Published fredag 23 december 2016 kl 11.25
Credit: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

A proposal for a new, national database that would enable healthcare professionals to see all medicines prescribed to a patient will be presented by the government on Friday.

The register would be used by doctors, nurses and pharmacists to see what drugs a patient has had prescribed, and would contain details about the reason for the prescription and the active ingredients in the medicine. The intention is to improve patient safety by making it easier to discover and avoid harmful combinations of different drugs. 

The database would help healthcare professionals avoid prescribing medicines that cancel out or enhance each other, and it would also allow them to see if the patient has had narcotic substances prescribed from other healthcare providers. 

Minister for Public Health Gabriel Wikström said in an interview with Dagens Nyheter that the current lack of a full picture of a patient’s prescriptions is a major problem for healthcare professionals. According to the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen), around 35,000 elderly people fall ill every year due to wrongful medicine combinations. 

A national medicine database has been considered previously but did not materialise due to concerns over personal integrity. This time, the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs has consulted legal experts in conjunction with the Data Protection Authority (Datainspektionen). 

“The issue of patient integrity has been the toughest task to solve,” Gabriel Wikström told Dagens Nyheter. 

A bill will be presented by the government on Friday, December 23, and will be subject to consultation for three months. If it is passed in parliament, Wikström believes it could be implemented within two to three years. 

The Swedish Medical Association welcomes the proposal, although the association’s president, Heidi Stensmyren, would like to see the database become reality much sooner. 

“We have needed a medicine database for several years now. It must be possible to achieve it faster, for it to be prioritised higher. We need this now,” she told Dagens Nyheter.

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