My Record: more time

The senate has backed a two-month extension for Australians who want to opt out of My Health Record.

The motion initially called for the opt-out period to be extended “until the legislation and any amendments are passed, outstanding privacy and security issues are addressed and public confidence in this important reform is restored”. However, crossbench senators backed a motion to expand the opt-out period to January 31.

Prior to the extension of the deadline, Australians who had not opted out of the My Health Record rollout by November 15 would have a My Health Record automatically created in their name, but some privacy experts believe people have not had adequate time to opt out.

Information released by the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) reveals that, as of October 24, the senate estimated that 1,147,000 people had opted out of My Health Record, leaving about 17 million Australians who will have a My Health Record created.

Since then, ADHA and Health Minister Greg Hunt have released no update on how many people have now opted out, but privacy experts have suggested that reports of lengthy telephone wait times and a recent system crash on the opt-out hotline indicate that large numbers of people have been opting out as the deadline has approached.

While there are concerns regarding privacy and security of individual health records, Pharmacy Guild Executive Director David Quilty says there is a good reason why virtually every major peak health body supports this My Health Record rollout.

“It will provide health practitioners with significantly enhanced access to the information needed to treat their patients safely and effectively,” he said.

“Nowhere is this more readily apparent than in relation to the core role of community pharmacies.

“Pharmacies have operated as health islands, relying upon individual scripts, their own dispensing records and patients’ personal recollections. They have had little or no knowledge of the medicines dispensed by other pharmacies, no access to discharge summaries to understand the medicines that their patients have been dispensed when they leave hospital, scant information about patient allergies or previous adverse reactions to medications unless it is stored on their own dispensing systems and little knowledge of patients’ recent medical events, including diagnoses, pathology and point-of-care tests and diagnostic imaging.

“The My Health Record is not a panacea. As a source of knowledge, it is only as effective as the quality of information that is entered into it and the practical clinical uses that are made of it.

“For this reason, it is important that the Australian Digital Health Agency and the major peak bodies work in close partnership, actively informing the public about the benefits of the My Health Record and encouraging widespread acceptance, take-up and use.”

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia National President Dr Shane Jackson said: “My Health Record has the potential to provide pharmacists and other healthcare professionals with valuable clinical information that will empower them to deliver safer and more effective care.

“Access to verified clinical information in real time will allow pharmacists to communicate more effectively with other health professionals and tailor the care they provide to patients.”

At the time of writing, the www.myhealthrecord.gov.au website states that opt-out call wait times are between 15 and 30 minutes. The help line is available 24 hours, seven days a week.

Those who don’t have a My Health Record and don’t want one created can opt out by calling 1800 723 471 or online at: https://www.myhealthrecord.gov.au/for-you-your-family/opt-out-my-health-record.