Talk about My Health Records is everywhere. Should I opt out? And what does it mean to me?

The cut off date to opt out of the My Health Record system is 31 January 2019, and it's fast approaching. But don’t let that rush you into making an uninformed decision.

The benefits of My Heath Record are far reaching. The electronic centralisation of medical records will improve the continuity of care between health providers. Firstly, the sharing of key information efficiently, anywhere, anytime will save lives, especially for those suffering life threatening conditions or those with chronic health illnesses.

Further, My Health Record will give practitioners a snapshot of time, in a streamlined, paperless format that will be more convenient and efficient. It will contain pertinent documents including hospital discharge summaries, specialist referrals and letters, diagnostic imaging and pathology results. An overview of Medicare visits and medication prescribing and dispensing history will be accessible. As will early childhood health developments, immunisations and advanced health directives.

The launch of the My Health Record will also bring us closer to achieving the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights published over 10 years ago. This Charter was developed to facilitate genuine partnerships between health care recipients and health care providers to ensure health information and services meet individual needs. The Charter of rights guiding principles underpin the My Health Record System.

The seven Charter rights are:

  • Access: You will have the ability to manage what health information is accessible to specific health providers. There are optional pieces of health information that can be shared also, for example additional food allergies, alternate or natural medications and your emergency contacts. You can limit or permit access to care givers and family members by disclosing your individual log-in codes. Like any computer system, the information is only as good as the quality of data that is entered. A detailed medical history is vital to investigating and diagnosing illnesses and injuries. Having one readily available expedites the delivery of the most effective care possible.
  • Safety: In the healthcare setting, allergies and medications are recognised risks, especially in emergency care. Readily accessible medication dispensing information will be invaluable. Up to date information about vaccination status or previous test results can mean the difference between receiving unnecessary interventions and a delay in receiving the correct treatment.
  • Respect: My Health Record aims to recognise that everyone’s healthcare decisions are individual. By taking into account the patient’s beliefs and cultures in their healthcare decisions, dignity is maintained wherever possible. Building trust in the system to ensure privacy and security with individual’s stored information will take time, particularly in light of the glut of negative press since its launch.
  • Communication and Participation: By participating in your own care or that of a loved one as much as possible ensures the right information is used when and where it is needed. Communication between healthcare providers will be more efficient to reduce the risk of inaccurate information and delays.
  • Privacy: It’s clear that there are significant concerns surrounding privacy and security and the fear of misuse is being used as the driver for opting out. However, there are numerous security measures you can apply to manage your digital health records.[1]
  • Comment: Constructive feedback is an essential element when introducing new systems. Health is particularly subjective and sometimes there are no definitive answers. If you have particular concerns approach your local health provider first. If you don’t receive a satisfactory response there are many avenues in which to make a complaint.[2]

So what now:

In most instances, the key holder of this information will be your General Practitioner. S/he will keep information about your medical conditions, prescriptions and any other treatment providers documented in their files. Most correspondence relies on pre-populated data in existing records, so ensure your health information is correct, complete and up to date. If you decide not to opt out, make an appointment to see your health provider and take control of your health information today.