HHH starts Patient’s files survey

The HHH board is very pleased to announce that our project “Patient’s files and privacy in medical history” has been approved for funding by the Stichting Historia Medicinae. Over the next months, MA student Eileen van der Burgh (Erasmus University) is going to carry out a survey of the current legal and ethical frameworks regarding patient’s files, and of archiving and destruction practices of such files in healthcare institutions. The survey report, expected early 2022, is a necessary step towards formulating guidelines that allow medical history research while respecting the privacy of individual patients.  

Patient’s files are a rich source for medical historians, but they are also subjected to doctor-patient confidentiality. During the HHH workshop on the subject held in January, 2021, we took inventory of current practices and came to the conclusion that researchers feel insecure in these matters while institutions’ practices vary. Many felt the need for a clear policy regarding the way patient’s files are kept and dealt with for the purpose of medical history research. This project is a first step towards this aim.

Eileen is supervised by HHH secretary Timo Bolt (associate professor at Erasmus Medical Centre) and Ralf Futselaar (professor social history at Erasmus University). In addition, the project is supported by an advisory committee including experienced patient’s files researchers Joost Vijselaar (professor history of psychiatry at Utrecht University) and Ruben Verwaal (medical heritage curator at Erasmus Medical Centre). Part of Eileen’s assignment is to organise a follow up workshop once her report is finished.