My Health Record: what’s changing?
The Australian Government launched the My Health Record scheme in 2016 as a key component of its National Digital Health Strategy.
A My Health Record account is a secure electronic health record that includes an online summary of all your health and medical information, drawn from your existing medical records.
Unless you have signed up, you won’t have one since participation in the My Health Record scheme has so far been entirely voluntary. Participation is still voluntary, but now every Australian will have a My Health Record created for them unless they opt out in the three months from July 16 to October 15 this year.
Over five million Australians already have a My Health Record. There are also more than eighteen thousand healthcare professionals participating in the scheme.
The benefits of My Health Record
The government says the My Health Record scheme will lead to greater efficiency in patient record keeping and make Australia a world leader in patient care by giving healthcare professionals unprecedented access to patients’ health information online.
Under the current system, patient records are distributed across a wide range of patient healthcare providers — for example, at general practices, specialist practices, and imaging centres.
However, this haphazardness means healthcare professionals often have incomplete information about their patients, says Australian Medical Association (AMA) President, Dr Michael Gannon.
“My Health Record will result in doctors having access to better information, in a more timely fashion, via secure means. Less time chasing up paperwork means more time can be spent treating our patients,” he says.
Better continuity of care
As well as simplifying patient and practitioner interaction, it’s hoped that My Health Record will lead to better continuity of care for patients that need specialist care.
For example, by accessing the My Health Records of their patients, doctors will soon have a more complete medical history of patients. With this information, they will be better equipped to treat patients needing specialist care such as the elderly, people with chronic illnesses, or those taking multiple medications where drug interactions are important.
Damien Taylor, whose daughter Maggie underwent open-heart surgery at seven months of age, says her My Health Record will help simplify her treatment.
“Maggie’s medicines, conditions, and hospital stay information were captured in My Heath Record so we won’t need to keep hard copy records, and try and remember everything at each medical appointment in the future,” says Taylor.
What’s in the record?
Your My Health Record will include:
- An overview of your health uploaded by your doctor, called a “Shared Health Summary”.
- Prescriptions and referrals
- Reports from tests and scans, like blood tests
- Hospital discharge summaries
- Organ donor status
- Information from Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)
- Immunisation status from the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR)
If you choose, you will also have the opportunity to add the following health information to your My Heath Record, including:
- A “Personal Health Summary” which may include information about allergies, adverse reactions, etc.
- Advance Care Directive Custodian information
- Emergency contact details
Who has access?
If you have a My Health Record, only you and healthcare providers authorised by their healthcare organisation will be able to view your My Health record, and add to it.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule as outlined in the government’s framework to guide the secondary use of My Health Record system data, that has sparked fears of misuse of data and privacy issues.
Under the framework, commercial companies can apply to access your data as long as they can prove it is in the public’s interest. And from 2020, your health data will be made available to third parties for public health and research purposes — unless you choose to opt out.
What control do I have?
Thankfully, the government has allowed individuals to control what records are kept in their My Health Record and which organisations can see it.
You will have the option to restrict access to information in your My Health Record and reinstate it at any time. You will also be able to remove and restore clinical or Medicare documents whenever you wish.
If you choose to opt out of having a My Health Record, you can still create one at any time after the opt-out date. You can also cancel your My Health Record at any time.
If you don’t want a My Health Record, you can opt out between July 16-October 15. Visit myhealthrecord.gov.au or call 1800 723 471.