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Data entry errors plague Japanese gov't plan to use 'My Number' ID card at hospitals

Illustrations of "My Number" personal identification cards are seen in this image provided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

TOKYO -- Thousands of data entry errors have temporarily torpedoed the Japanese government's plan to allow patients to use "My Number" personal identification cards in place of health insurance cards at medical institutions, it has been learned.

    It is feared that the errors, impacting around 4,000 people covered by Japan's public health care system, could cause the wrong patient's personal information to be displayed when visiting a medical facility. Furthermore, inability to confirm patient information has continued to plague the system during trials, forcing the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to delay the full-scale launch of the system originally set for late March to October.

    The Japanese government has drawn up plans to integrate My Number cards with health insurance certificates to promote widespread use of the ID card. The government had set up an online system enabling people to verify their identity by presenting just their My Number card, and demanded that insurers including health insurance associations register beneficiary data in the system. The system began a trial run on March 4 at some medical institutions and pharmacies in Japan.

    However, about 4,000 data input errors had been detected as of March 22, including some where health insurance associations and other parties had registered the wrong person's information when linking health insurance accounts with My Number cards. According to a source close to the matter, even more errors were made when data input began in October 2020, and that not all of them were fixed in time.

    While health insurance associations have been continuing work to correct the data, the health ministry has abandoned its plan to begin nationwide operations of the card integration scheme at the end of March. The ministry is set to implement fixes in around the next three months, and add a function that will automatically detect errors. The ministry intends to begin full-scale operations by October at the latest, when medical institutions will become able to view patient drug prescription records.

    Although prescription records will be made available for viewing at medical facilities, the wrong person's information could be displayed if ID numbers are left in the system as they are now.

    In a separate issue, in about 3,000 cases the system did not display insurance beneficiaries' ID numbers correctly, while in another 1.8 million cases health insurance associations and other insurers neglected to register the numbers in the system at all. Due to the series of data entry errors, there was also at least one case where a patient's identity could not be verified during the system trial.

    (Japanese original by Hiroyuki Harada, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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