Don’t let opt out debate shroud potential benefits of My Health Record

Australians should not lose sight of the great potential benefits of the My Health Record in the current debate about the provisions for opting out of My Health Record.

“There may well be issues of real concern about the privacy and security of MHR and these must be resolved if the development is to succeed,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells said.

“Part of that effort is the ongoing need for the community to trust and understand in clear terms the measures that have been put in place to protect their sensitive health information which range from cyber-protections to legal penalties, and to be reassured that these are constantly under review.

“However it is vital that we recognise the substantial benefits that an effective electronic health records system holds out for health care in Australia.

“There are few other parts of modern life in which information unique to each individual, as is the case with our health, is not collected, stored and transmitted electronically.

“Yet our health information concerning medical treatment, medicines, tests, scans and hospital care still often remains widely scattered and not immediately available in the way we take for granted in other spheres, such as banking and travel.

“It is when vital information such as allergies, current medications and discharge care plans to support transition from hospital to home is not readily to hand that misadventure can happen and patient’s experience fragmented and unnecessarily costly care. 

“Prompt access to a complete and current health record is particularly important for those with complex and chronic conditions requiring a range of different treatments and medicines, often urgently.

“A My Health Record for children where immunisation records and allergies can be housed in one spot is also a practical benefit in the busy everyday lives of parents.

“And for healthy people, having instant access to personal health information --- which is rapidly expanding given the growth in number and capability of health apps --- offers an important stimulus to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“The Consumers Health Forum took the decision about six years ago to support an opt out approach because we assessed it would more quickly generate the numbers and participation by consumers and health practitioners to make it truly effective. This approach has been the subject of continuing discussion with our members and interested parties and has drawn general support.

“We are funded to provide information and raise awareness among our member organisations and networks of MHR.   This involves exactly what we are doing.  Having supported MHR and the opt out model, we are being funded to fulfil our obligations as a peak body to provide balanced and informed commentary about the benefits and the personal considerations each person needs to weigh up in order to make an informed choice.  

 “Our opt out decision came some years before the establishment of the Australian Digital Health Agency to administer the MHR.

“We do accept funding from ADHA to distribute information and resources that explain the My Health Record to our members and networks.  Under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding we have with ADHA, each party, after consultation, reserves the right to speak independently on digital health issues relating to the MOU.

“CHF communicates frankly with ADHA and the Federal Government about issues of concern and obviously revelations this week require careful examination and remedy.

“Our record on this issue speaks for itself.  See for example a recent article published in Croakey:

“With the support of ADHA, CHF will host a series of public webinars for anyone wishing to learn more about the MHR.  The first webinar is to focus on privacy and security and is being held on August 8.  

“How the MHR is used and by whom will be the determinant of how much a game changer it will really be.  With no – or patchy -- uptake by clinicians and consumers, particularly those who could benefit most from it failing to get fully on board, we risk a white elephant. This outcome would not be in the interests of better patient care and a world class health system,” Ms Wells said.


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Jenna Gray

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