Australia announces 3-month opt out period for My Health Record
Currently, more than 5.7 million Australians already have a My Health Record, which provides a summary of their key health information, delivering better health outcomes for patients and their treating doctors and specialists.
As announced by the Australian Digital Health Agency, every Australian will be offered a My Health Record unless they choose not to have one during the three-month opt out period that will run from 16 July to 15 October 2018.
According to the press statement, the My Health Record system and opt out process has the full support of all state and territory governments, who unanimously agreed to this plan in August 2017 at COAG Health Council (CHC).
A national communications strategy will be implemented to inform all Australians of the benefits of digital health, and to explain the opt out process. During the opt out period individuals who do not want a record will be able to opt out by visiting the My Health Record website or by calling 1800 723 471 for phone-based assistance.
Forms will be provided on request, and additional support will be provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people from non-English speaking backgrounds, people with limited digital literacy, and those living in rural and remote regions.
After the three-month opt out phase, one month will be required to reconcile the data and to finalise processing of paper opt out forms received from Australians living in remote and rural locations, and from people who do not have access to a computer.
The new records will be activated when individuals login for the first time or when healthcare providers access records in treating their patients. Two years of Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) data will be uploaded, unless an individual chooses not to include this information.
Individuals will also be able to upload personal notes, advanced care documentation, and medication and allergy information. Authorised healthcare providers using approved clinical information software will also upload health information on allergies, medical conditions and treatments, medicine details, and test results.
“Strict privacy control, set by an individual, is a central feature of My Health Record. Each person can control the information in his or her My Health Record, and the healthcare provider organisations that can have access,” CEO of Australian Digital Health Agency Mr Tim Kelsey said.
Individuals will be able to ask their healthcare provider not to add specific test reports and other medical information to their My Health Record. Individuals can also restrict access to specific information in their record by applying a Limited Access Code to that that specific document – or by applying a Personal Access Code to the entire record.
After the end of the opt out period, Australians can cancel their My Health Record at any time or create one, if they opted out.
Minister for Health Greg Hunt said My Health Record enables important health information to be securely shared between clinicians and their patients. It also enables people to take more control of their own health and wellbeing, manage their children’s health, and upload key documents, like advanced care directives.
“My Health Record provides many benefits to patients, including reduced duplication of tests, better coordination of care for people with chronic and complex conditions, and better informed treatment decisions,” Minister Hunt said.
“I would encourage each and every Australian to use their My Health Record and to speak with their healthcare providers regarding these benefits,” he added.
The announcement follows the Government’s 2017 Budget allocation of A$374.2 million over two years to expand Australia’s digital health system. Australian Digital Health Agency CEO Tim Kelsey welcomed the Australian Government’s commitment to building Australia’s digital health system.
According to Mr Kelsey, My Health Record is about improving healthcare for all Australians and the system gives people control over who sees their health information.
“The Australian Government is continuing to build on its investment in technology to improve the health and wellbeing of all Australians. A top priority in Australia’s National Digital Health Strategy – Safe, Seamless, and Secure, is for the national expansion of My Health Record to realise the greatest health benefits,” he said.
The Agency is partnering with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and its state affiliates to raise awareness of My Health Record with healthcare providers, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and to provide on the ground support for individuals who choose to opt out.
Recently, the Australian Digital Health Agency also released a framework for My Health Record to deliver better outcomes for patients. The Framework defines how data on the My Health Record system can be used for research and public health purposes while preserving privacy and security of data in the system.