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24 Jul 2018

Information for AMA Members from the Australian Digital Health Agency about My Health Record.

By Professor Meredith Makeham

Australians are being offered an important choice over the next three months about how they want to interact with their health information.

By the end of 2018, all Australians will have a My Health Record created for them, unless they choose not to have one.

The decision, importantly, is theirs to make after considering the benefits of having immediate online access to their health and care data, and being able to share it with their clinicians.

They will have access to information such as their medicines and allergies, hospital and GP summaries, investigation reports and advance care plans which could not only save their life in an emergency but also help their clinicians find vital information more quickly so that they can make safer health care decisions.

Trusted health care providers – GPs, specialists, pharmacists and others – are likely to find their patients want to talk to them about their decision. The My Health Record system is here to support better, safer care – not to replace current clinical record keeping systems or professional communication. Neither will it replace the patient-doctor relationship and clinical judgement. It is simply a secure online repository of health data and information that wouldn’t be accessible otherwise.

The data flows into the record from securely connected clinical information systems in hospitals, general practices, pharmacies, specialists’ rooms, and pathology and radiology providers. It also provides access to Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) data, the Australian Immunisation register and the Australian Organ Donor registry.

People understandably want reassurance that the Australian Digital Health Agency (the Agency) holds the privacy and security of their health information as its first priority. The system’s security has not been breached in its six years of operation. There is no complacency however – My Health Record system security operates to the highest standards, working with the Australian Cyber Security Centre and others. It is under constant surveillance and threat testing.

The legislated privacy controls are world-leading and easily accessed on the consumer portal. They include features such as a record access control – similar to a PIN – that a person can apply to their entire record so it can’t be viewed unless shared with their clinician. In an emergency, the legislation allows a clinician to ‘break glass’ and see vital medicines and allergy information. However, all instances of this are audited and people can choose to receive a text or email informing them if this happens.

The steps required for a healthcare practitioner to view a My Health Record require a number of security authentications to take place. For a provider to access the My Health Record via their clinical information system, they must be a registered health care provider – for example, registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. They must also have a valid provider identifier and work in an organisation with a valid organisational identifier.

Software must be conformant, with a secure and encrypted connection to the My Health Record system. In addition, the patient must have a record on the provider’s clinical information system as a patient of the practice.

The Agency has not and will not release documents without a court/coronial or similar order. No documents have been released in the past six years and no other Government agencies have direct access to the My Health Record system.

We know 230,000 hospital admissions occur every year as a result of medication misadventure, costing the Australian taxpayer $1.2 billion annually. Many of these could be avoided if people and their clinicians had better access to vital medicines and allergy information.

The ‘Medicines View’ is a recent addition to My Health Record. It provides a consolidated summary of the most recent medicines information from notes entered by GPs, hospitals, pharmacies and consumers.

Over the past 12 months, the system has enriched its clinical content. Public and private pathology and imaging providers are now connecting and a vast increase in connected pharmacy systems as well as hospitals has occurred. This will accelerate the realisation of benefits as clinicians find they can access a more comprehensive source of information within the My Health Record system.

This month, a national communication plan was launched to ensure Australians are well informed when making their decision. Almost 20,000 My Health Record education kits were distributed to GPs, community pharmacies, aboriginal health services, post offices and public and private hospitals.

Our role as health care providers is to be our patients’ advocate, to support them in making the decisions and choices that will lead to better health outcomes and ensure that they have access to safe and effective care. My Health Record isn’t here to solve all of our problems, but it is an important step forward in our ability to deliver a safer and better-connected healthcare system.

Clinical Professor Meredith Makeham is Chief Medical Adviser of the Australian Digital Health Agency.






Published: 24 Jul 2018