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Medical Examinations Online

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Medical Examinations Online

Patients may receive blood test results, X-Rays and medical examinations directly on their PCs without having to wait in a queue at medical labs and health care agencies; however, the data subject´s consent is mandatory along with the use of appropriate passwords.

The "Guidelines for Online Medical Examinations" issued by the DPA set forth stringent measures to ensure the protection of patients´ medical data when such data are sent via email and/or "downloaded" directly by patients from the websites of the health care institutions they applied to.

Medical reports have long been accessible in electronic format at medical labs, hospitals and nursing homes; however, no specific regulations are in place in a data protection perspective. This made it necessary for the DPA to step in – pending the enactment of appropriate legislation – so as to ensure that this important as well as innovative mechanism to provide health care in a technologically advanced manner would be implemented further in compliance with clear-cut, harmonised rules.

The main points made in the Guidelines are as follows:

- Joining the online service must be on a voluntary basis; electronic documents should not replace paper-based ones, which will have to be available in any case. Patients should only give their consent following clear-cut, detailed information including an explanation of all the features of the "online medical reporting" service.

- The medical report will remain available online for up to 45 days and will have to be accompanied by an evaluation written by the competent physician, who should be ready to provide additional information at the data subject´s (patient´s) request.

- In order to provide these services, public and private health care bodies will have to implement adequate technological security measures including the use of encryption standards, strong authentication systems, online validation of email addresses, and password-protected files. If they plan to also offer the option of archiving medical reports to enable their future consultation online, they will have to provide patients with an additional, specific information notice and obtain their consent separately.

The Guidelines take account of the considerations and comments made by public and private health care bodies and practitioners, family doctors, paediatricians, trade associations, and patients´ associations.

21 December 2009