Health organisations that invade patients' privacy by sharing footage from surgeries face being hit with a fine of up to Dh1 million, under a proposed UAE law announced by the Federal National Council on Tuesday.
Council members have passed draft legislation to govern the use of technology in health services - after a rise in the number of cases of medical procedures being filmed and posted on social media.
The law will protect patients' data and ensure sensitive footage is only shared after consent is given.
Health authorities that flout the law could be hit by written warning, or a fine ranging from Dh1,000 and Dh1 million - and have their medical license suspended for six months.
Health workers who contravene the new law could have their license suspended for up to a year and be fined up to Dh500,000.
Any parties found to have published a health advert without a license from the Ministry of Health will be fined between Dh100,000 and Dh200,000.
Those who share UAE-based health information without the prior consent of the ministry will be slapped with a fine between Dh500,000 and Dh700,000.
The law also gives the ministry the right to block websites inside and outside of the UAE if they breach advertising regulations, or publish an advert without a license.
The legislation will provide for exceptions in which medical footage or data can be shared, such as a need to pass on information to a health insurance provider, judicial or inspection officials or in cases where the data is to be used for scientific research, as long as the identity of the patient is not disclosed.
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Dr Yasser Nakhlawi, clinical director and chairman of paediatrics at Al Zahra Hospital, said some doctors often take pictures of their patients before and after a cosmetic procedure to post it on their website or social media accounts, as an advert for their services.
“The doctor of course takes the consent of the patient before posting; this is automatic it doesn’t need a law to tell doctors to do that, it’s the ethics of the profession,” he said.
Nonetheless, Dr Nakhlawi agrees that the process should be governed, and doctors should not be left free to post images of their patients for advertising purposes.
“Because there are doctors who might do it in an illegal way, regulating adverts is a good thing because the doctor may post something that will later on hurt the patient socially, or make them appear in an inappropriate way.”
In May of this year, the Dubai Health Authority banned taking videos of surgeries and posting them on social media.
The move followed an increasing phenomenon of unauthorised medical people entering operation rooms to record surgeries and post them live on social media channels to advertise for their services.
The draft law also said that patients’ records should be saved by the medical facility for a minimum of 15 years. However, FNC members proposed extending that period to 25 years.
“There could be some medical information that the patient will need to get back to more than 15 years later,” said Naama Al Sharhan, a member representing Ras Al Khaimah.
The health minister Abdul Rahman Al Owais agreed to the proposed extension.
Once the law is approved by the cabinet and issued by the president, it will come into effect one month after it has been published in the official gazette.