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Renamed eHealth record launched as opt-out trials get underway

The Federal Government has officially launched the revamped national digital health record ahead of the opt-out trials, which will see the automatic registration of one million Australians in the two test regions.

Minister for Health Sussan Ley launched the My Health Record last week and said it included a range of new security features to give individuals ultimate control and a “break-glass option” to ensure information was available in an emergency.

Renaming the record was one of the measures in the Federal Government’s $485 million over four years “rescue package” to boost uptake in the national eHealth system previously known as the personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR).

The My Health Record aims to give patients and health professionals immediate access to health information, such as medications prescribed, details of diagnosis and treatments, allergies and medical procedures undertaken, to improve co-ordinated care outcomes, reduce duplication and provide vital information in emergency situations.

Sussan Ley

Sussan Ley

Ms Ley said the government had particularly focused on protecting patient privacy as part of the new My Health Record, which included supporting legislation mandating fines of up to half a million dollars and jail sentences for anyone who attempted to deliberately misuse or access information in the health record.

She said individuals would have ultimate control including additional password protections – over who accessed their information.

Ms Ley said a life-saving “break-glass option” was also included in the new My Health Record to allow patients to have maximum security protections whilst not having to worry about blocking access to their information in medical emergencies such as anaphylaxis, heart attacks, stroke or accidents where a patient is unconscious.

The government’s new measures also include trialling the automatic creation of electronic health records for more than one million residents in Western Sydney and North Queensland, who will then have the option to opt out if they choose.

Residents in the Northern Queensland Primary Health Network and Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network are due to receive a letter soon informing them of the trial and how they can opt out, according to the government.

By mid-June 2016 residents participating will be able to change their access controls to the record, ahead of their doctor accessing the My Health Record in mid-July 2016.

Moving to an opt-out model was a key recommendation of the independent review of the PCEHR to improve coverage rates over the current opt-in process, which has resulted in low uptake.

The review also found that doctors said they would be more likely to use the system if everyone had a record.

As at 29 February 2016, approximately 11 per cent of Australia’s total population was registered.

Fast facts

  • As at 29 February 2016, there are:
    • 2,627,306 individual registrations, 13 per cent of whom are aged 65 or over
    • 8,041 healthcare provider registrations including 155 residential aged care services
  • The additional one million users to be registered with the opt-out trials include about:
    • 360,000 residents in the Nepean region of Western Sydney (Nepean Blue Mountains PHN)
    • 700,000 residents in North Queensland (North Queensland PHN – covering Mackay up to Cape York/Torres Strait)
  • Stronger privacy controls of the My Health Record include:
    • Password protection
    • Lock down access to specific GPs or hospitals
    • View every person who has opened the record
    • Delete files that are unwanted
    • New criminal penalties for deliberate misuse
    • Fines of up to half a million dollars per breach for deliberate misuse or access.

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One Response to Renamed eHealth record launched as opt-out trials get underway

  1. Diane March 24, 2016 at 12:16 am #

    “Delete files that are unwanted”

    Are you sure about that bit? I read the legislation in the lead-up to its passage through parliament last year, and it made clear that files which are “effectively removed” remain in the system and are merely hidden from view from clinicians. They are still there though and able to be hacked.

    “Lock down access to specific GPs or hospitals”

    Both reading and writing access, or only reading? Everything I’ve heard about the access controls in this system have centred around reading controls, when I would actually value the writing controls more. It would be much more important to me as a patient to be able to stop anything from being written to my record without my specific consent each and every time, than to be able to block reading. This system doesn’t seem to allow a patient to write in the few things they want available in an emergency, and to prevent anything further from being written to the record.

    “[A] life-saving “break-glass option” was also included”

    This is positive spin-doctoring on one of the most complained about features of the current system – that patients can’t block emergency access to their records.

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