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02 Mar 2015

Doctors and patients have shunned the former Labor Government’s $1 billion electronic health record system, underlining the urgency of calls to heed the results of a review recommended a major overhaul to make it clinically useful.

Health Department officials have admitted that the vast majority of the 2.1 million records created since the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record scheme was launched in mid-2012 are sitting empty because doctors have uploaded just 41,998 shared health summaries to the system.

While the creation of reliable and nationally-accessible electronic medical records containing information about medications, allergies, treatments and test results, have long been touted as a major advance in improving patient safety and continuity of care, critics have complained that the PCEHR was fatally flawed in its design and needed to be overhauled.

Soon after coming to office, the Coalition Government appointed a review panel, including immediate-past AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton, to examine the scheme and suggest changes.

In its report, the review called for PCEHR to be changed to an opt-out system.

In its submission to the review, the AMA called for a fundamental change to the system to reduce patient control.

The AMA has said the ability of patients to remove or restrict access to information in the PCEHR undermined its usefulness, because doctors could not be confident that it provided the comprehensive medical information needed to make an accurate diagnosis or properly assess the safety of proposed avenues of treatment.

The Abbott Government is yet to respond to the review’s recommendations.

Health Minister Sussan Ley condemned the system as a “complex, expensive mess”.

AMA President Associate Professor Brian Owler said that, “to have spent that much money and still not have anything of widespread value [out of it] is terrible”.


Adrian Rollins

Published: 02 Mar 2015