The proposed National Identification System (NIDS) has been the source of contentious debate for the last few weeks.
Jamaica is actually late in the game in providing some sort of system of this type to ensure a proper database of its citizens, which will improve the country's ability to put in place effective structures and programmes that will adequately capture the needs of the population.
The United States, for example, can track and manage its welfare services through the social-security number issued to every citizen at birth and kept until death.
DEBATE IS GOOD
The concerns that are being put forward and the robust debate are good, in terms of bringing awareness and ensuring that persons understand what is to come, the benefits and what is required of each of us to make sure it works as efficiently as possible.
One area which will benefit from a national identification system is the health sector, as we continue to move towards the use of technology.
We have the required electronic systems available locally, and already in use by some facilities, to complement the use of the NIDS.
Health-insurance claims adjudication today is online real time, and that has been ensuring accuracy and efficiency for the insured, all categories of medical professionals, health-insurance companies and the Government.
It is time, however, that we take this a step further. If we use this unique identifier, which each person will now have, then we can begin to more efficiently manage diseases and identify trends in our population.
The Government can be armed with information that can allow for effective action to combat diseases, better planning and allocation of resources and improved outbreak management.
The University Hospital of the West Indies is in the process of fully implementing the Hospital Information Management System. Currently, that system applies an algorithm to the Tax Registration Number (TRN) to generate a unique number used for electronic medical records (EMR).
NIDS would replace the TRN and would provide a more comprehensive database, which would allow for a person's EMR to be transferred across physicians for continuity of care, improved referrals, and other functions like pre-booking of hospital beds.
Right now, records are in various databases, but not linked. NIDS would consolidate these disparate records and that will provide several advantages.
If NIDS is linked to each person's EMR, then the opportunities are endless. This would go a far way in facilitating the consolidation of medical history for quick reference in emergencies, monitoring therapy, tracking genetic traits, conducting drug interactions, and for all-important research.
This linked system could allow doctors to track and intercept health issues before they get to an advanced stage. The administering doctor could see a 'total' record or health history written by different doctors over the course of a patient's life.
PERSONALISED HEALTH CARE
Access to, and use of, individual's health data can personalise care to improve prevention and long-term treatment services significantly and positively impacting the level of lifestyle diseases and other illnesses among our population.
The platform would be able to pick up genetic trends over at least three generations and the required intervention made or preventive treatment administered.
As I have demonstrated in previous articles, data is the new 'oil', and NIDS can be a gold mine of data that, if used correctly, can positively transform the country's health status.
This could bring further benefits, especially through the administration of welfare services and others that are essential to individual well-being, which in turns increases productivity and overall economic growth.
Published: Sunday | November 19, 2017 | 12:00 AM Doug Halsall