Dr Rajendra, 2018
Did you know that every Australian will have an online health record created unless they opt out by the end of the year? The record is called the My Health Record.
Health information about individuals is uploaded by health professionals and institutions in different formats as illustrated in the diagram above. For many uploaded documents, consent must be obtained from the patient. Many people have an online record already with over 5.75 million Australians registered and greater than 5.48 million clinical documents uploaded. Interestingly, I have found in our practice, some people don’t know they have an online record.
The benefits of having such a system are self-evident and illustrated below.
In Australia, there are approximately 2 million medication related mistakes each year. Each year this costs the health system 1.3 billion dollars and 230,000 additional hospital admissions. It is estimated that there are 10,000 extra deaths from medication mistakes each year. Having timely access to patient information, as provided in the My Health record, would almost certainly reduce this staggering problem.
There are downsides too. Foremost is the issue of security and privacy of the information. The body that manages the My Health Record is called the Australian Digital Health Agency. It has a cyber security section that is devoted to protecting the information against hacking and other security threats. The physical site where the data is kept is in Australia, but the location is a secret. One third of general practices in the South West Sydney Public Health Network (which includes Bundanoon) do not have adequate computerisation to upload patient information to the record. The patients that attend these practices will not be able to have their data uploaded. Another issue is that the information that is uploaded must by cleansed, meaning that the health data must be complete and accurate. This can be a daunting task for uploaders such as general practices who are already busy. In our practice, one of our staff has been assigned specifically to data cleansing.
The My Health Record is an important new addition to the health infrastructure. Its success will mean savings of billions of dollars each year in health dollars and the saving of lives. Its success depends on the participation of not only patients but the providers of health care. Previous trials related to the My Health Record over the last 18 years have largely failed because of complacency of its users. This is the reason the government has decided to use an opt out system. If you don’t want to have a My Health Record than you have to make the effort to stop it. For those of you who chose to opt out, you will have any opportunity to do so in the next few months.