Australians will have a My Health Record created for them by the end of the year, unless they opt-out during a three month window which starts today.
The opt-out period ends on October 15. If an individual has not opted-out by then, a record will be created but will be made “unavailable” in the system with health providers unable to access it.
Following the opt out period, for those that have not opted out, a record will be created but it will empty until it is ‘activated’ by its owner or by their healthcare provider when they access it for the first time. At this point it is filled with the previous two years' worth of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) data.
Other data, such as Australian Organ Donor Register (AODR) and Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) information, blood test results, hospital discharge summaries can also be added by an individual’s healthcare providers, such as GPs and pharmacists.
The decision to shift to an opt-out model in order to boost uptake of the eHealth record followed trials in Queensland and New South Wales. Those trials were staged in the wake of a 2013 review of the system – originally named the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) — that concluded the system should shift to an opt-out approach.
The 2017-18 federal budget earmarked $374.2 million over two years for the expansion of the system as it moved away from opt-in.
More than 5.9 million Australians already have a My Health Record – an online summary of an individual’s health information – and 12,860 healthcare professional organisations are are able to access the records, including general practices, hospitals, pharmacies, diagnostic imaging and pathology practices.
The opt-out approach has been supported by a number of healthcare peak bodies, including the Australian Medical Association, the Royal College of Australian General Practitioners, Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association and the Consumers Health Forum.
“My Health Record gives Australians the opportunity to be active partners in their own care, with many potential benefits for those that decide to have one. The opt out period is a great opportunity for individuals to learn more about My Health Record so they can understand the impact it could have on their treatments,” said Consumers Health Forum CEO Leanne Wells in a statement today.
Individuals can themselves add information such as emergency contact numbers, allergies and current medications to the record if they wish to, and manage access and privacy controls.
“It’s your choice who sees your My Health Record and what’s in it. You can choose to share your information with the healthcare providers involved in your care. By allowing your doctors to upload, view and share documents in your My Health Record, they will have a more detailed picture with which to make decisions, diagnose and provide treatment to you,” the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) – the system operator of the My Health Record – says on its public facing record website.
However, fewer than two out of every 1000 individuals registered has opted to use privacy settings, and where an individual has opted to use privacy settings, healthcare organisations do not have to be granted access to a My Health Record in order to upload to it.
“My Health Record aims to deliver better healthcare outcomes and safer care for people. It will reduce harm caused by medication errors because people and their healthcare providers will have access to important information about medicines and allergies. This could save your life in an emergency,” said Professor Meredith Makeham, family General Practitioner and Chief Medical Adviser to the ADHA.
“My Health Record will help people with chronic and complex health conditions have better coordinated care. It will enable all of their clinicians to see the same healthcare information. This should also reduce avoidable hospital admissions and the unnecessary duplication of pathology and imaging investigations,” she added.
To opt out, individuals need to verify their identity on the My Health Record website and follow the steps online. Alternatively they can call 1800 723 471 or return a paper form which is currently available at Australia Post outlets, remote health centres and prisons.
Those that opt out and decide at a later stage they want a record can easily create one at any time.