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Credit: Department of Health

Credit: Department of Health

Australia releases framework for My Health Record to deliver better outcomes for patients

The My Health Record system provides online summaries of patients’ health information which can be accessed at any time by the patients and their healthcare providers, with the objective of delivering better health outcomes for patients.

The online summary includes important health information, such as allergies, medication the patient is currently prescribed to, his/her diagnosed medical conditions, and pathology test results like blood tests.  

As more people and their healthcare providers use the My Health Record system, Australia’s national health system will become better connected. This will result in faster and more efficient care for you and your family. By the end of 2018, a My Health Record will be created for every Australian, unless they choose not to have one.

This diagram indicates the sequence of events enabling opt-out to begin. (Credit: Department of Health)

To inform how My Health Record data can be used and protected for public health and research purposes, the Australian Government recently developed a framework in consultation with consumers, clinicians, medical researchers, industry experts, privacy advocates and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

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. It outlines key principles that will be used to establish the governance mechanisms and implement transparent processes that are needed to guide decisions about releasing data to suitable applicants for secondary use purposes.

The key principles include:

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) will be appointed as the organisation to manage and release datasets for the My Health Record Secondary Use of Data Governance Board. The My Health Record Secondary Use of Data Governance Board will be responsible for, and release regular statements about, data availability and quality.

Individual consumers who have a My Health Record will be able to opt-out of the use of their My Health record system data for secondary purposes. In this way, consumers can have a My Health Record but elect for their data not to be used for research and public health purposes.

Data cannot be used for commercial and non-health-related purposes, including direct marketing to consumers, insurance assessments, and eligibility for welfare benefits. Insurance companies will not be able to access the data.

Data will not immediately flow from My Health Record; the AIHW Ethics Committee will first consult with stakeholders on planned ethics and approvals processes to ensure protection of individuals privacy.

The framework is to be reviewed two years after the first dataset is released. It is also expected the first release of secondary use data will not occur until at least 2020.

The Framework deliberately takes a cautious approach to the secondary use of MHR data. The aim is to build public trust in the process through transparent decision making and wide sharing of the results of the secondary use of MHR data, including identifying the realised benefits.

According to the press statement by Minister for Health Mr Greg Hunt MP, the My Health Record system will help save and protect lives and is supported by healthcare consumers, doctors and the medical community across Australia. It is subject to some of the strongest legislation in the world to prevent unauthorised use. He also emphasised that the protection of patient information and privacy is critical and there are strong safeguards in place to protect health data in Australia.

The Government said it will continue to work with the Australian Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, Consumer Health Forum and other stakeholders to deliver improved health outcomes for all Australians.

The full document of the Framework can be found here.

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