It seems a simple message – should one continue to have a My Health Record, which will soon apply to every Australian, or choose to opt out, a decision that must be made between 16 July and 15 October this year?
Announcing the option, backed by state and territory governments and key professional bodies, including the RACGP, the federal government issued a 1500-word media release - around four pages - appended by a footnote about the Australian Digital Health Agency (mission: Safe, Seamless, and Secure: evolving health and care to meet the needs of modern Australia).
Apparently the message is deceptively complicated, however, because many people appear to have little idea of what the MHR actually is, even though five million already have one.
In the words of Health Minister Greg Hunt, “My Health Record enables important health information including allergies, medical conditions, treatments, medicines, and test reports 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”.
As the message has been clearly under-sold to date a national communications strategy, supported by peak bodies and the Primary Health Networks, will be rolled out to inform the community of the benefits of digital health, and explain the opt out process.
Individuals who do not want a record will be able to opt out during the three-month window by visiting the My Health Record website or by calling 1800 723 471 for phone based assistance.
Australians can cancel their My Health Record at any time after the end of the opt out period, or choose to create one, if they opted out.
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.
Consumers Health Forum (CHF) CEO Leanne Wells welcomed the announcement, calling it “a key step in the shift from health consumers as passive patients, to consumers as active partners in their own care.”
AMA President Dr Michael Gannon said, “The current system of medical records means that we may have incomplete information on a patient – especially if the patient has recently seen another specialist or has been discharged from a hospital.”
RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said, “Most Australians are digitally connected and make everyday use of digital services across a range of industries, so it makes sense that both healthcare providers and their patients have access to digital health services.
“The RACGP is supporting GPs to prepare for the My Health Record opt out process and to make informed decisions about the use of the system in their practice.”
Pharmacy Guild of Australia National President George Tambassis said “The Guild is committed to helping build the digital health capabilities of community pharmacies and advance the efficiency, quality, and delivery of healthcare to improve health outcomes for all Australians.
Individuals will be able to ask their healthcare provider not to add specific test reports and other medical information to their MHR. Individuals can also restrict access to specific information in their record by applying a Limited Access Code to that specific document, or by applying a Personal Access Code to the entire record.
Minister Hunt encourages all Australians to use their MHR and to speak with their healthcare providers regarding its benefits.