FNC approves law to stop patient data from being posted online
Healthcare providers who invade patients’ privacy by sharing footage from operations could be fined up to Dh1 million under a proposed UAE law announced by the Federal National Council yesterday.
Council members passed draft legislation to govern the use of technology in health services, after an increase in procedures being filmed and posted online.
The law will protect patients’ data and ensure sensitive footage is shared only when consent is provided.
Health authorities who flout the law could receive a written warning or a fine of between Dh1,000 and Dh1 million, and have their medical licences suspended for six months.
Health workers who break the law could also have their licences suspended for up to a year and be fined up to Dh500,000.
Any party that publishes a health advertisement without a licence from the Ministry of Health and Prevention will be fined between Dh100,000 and Dh200,000. Those who share health information without the ministry’s consent will be fined between Dh500,000 and Dh700,000. The ministry also has the right to block websites in and outside the UAE if they breach advertising regulations or publish an advert without a licence.
The legislation will provide for exceptions when medical footage or data can be shared, such as giving information to a health insurance provider or judicial or inspection officials, or when the data will be used for scientific research and the patient’s identity is protected.
Dr Yasser Nakhlawi, clinical director and chairman of paediatrics at Al Zahra Hospital, said some doctors took photos of patients before and after a cosmetic procedure for their website or social media account to advertise services.
“The doctor of course takes the consent of the patient before posting,” Dr Nakhlawi said. “This is automatic. It doesn’t need a law to tell doctors to do that, it’s the ethics of the profession.”
But, he said, doctors should not be free to post images of patients for advertising purposes.
“Because there are doctors who might do it in an illegal way, regulating adverts is a good thing,” Dr Nakhlawi said. “The doctor may post something that will later hurt the patient socially or make them appear in an inappropriate way.”
In May, the Dubai Health Authority banned taking videos of operations and posting them on social media. The move followed an increase in unauthorised medics entering operating theatres to film procedures and posting them live on social media to advertise services.
The draft law says patients’ records should be saved by a medical centre for at least 15 years. But some FNC members proposed extending that to 25.
“There could be some medical information that the patient will need to get back to more than 15 years later,” said Naama Al Sharhan, representing Ras Al Khaimah.
Abdulrahman Al Owais, Minister for Health and Prevention, agreed to the extension.