As you may already be aware, every Australian is automatically being rolled onto the digital My Health Record. In simple terms, it’s an online summary of your personal health information that is uploaded online by care providers that will make it easier for doctors to keep track of your health information in one place.
It is hoped having all the medical information for a patient in one place will make visits to multiple specialists easier for patients and health care providers. To date, more than 5.9 million people have a digital My Health Record, 12.9 thousand health professionals are connected to each other and more than 6.5 million clinical documents have already been uploaded. These numbers are set to increase over the coming months.
While Australia’s peak health bodies including the Australian Medical Association, the Royal College of Australian General Practitioners, Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association and the Consumers Health Forum have all supported the push for health records to go digital, it isn’t compulsory. In fact, starting today, an opt-out period has begun for anyone who doesn’t want their medical records stored on the national electronic database.
Read more: How to keep your medical records digitally
Australians have three months until October 15 to opt out if they don’t want their medical information to go digital. This can be done by accessing the My Heath Record website or by calling 1800 723 471. Anyone wishing to opt out will need a Medicare Card and either a driver licence, passport or ImmiCard as a form of identification.
It’s also important to know that you will be able to cancel your My Health record at any time and that you can also sign up after October 15 if you do choose to opt out. While many are concerned about the safety of their private information, the government has previously assured the public that the strongest safeguards possible would be used to protect the data.
Minister for Health Greg Hunt said all information relating to allergies, medical conditions, treatments, test reports and medication would be shared securely between clinicians and patients, meaning people wouldn’t need to write down or remember information relating to their health.
“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,” Hunt said.
Meanwhile, National Rural Health Alliance CEO Mark Diamond is encouraging people not to opt out of the service.
“Simply put, My Health Record can save lives,” he said in a statement. “Australians living in rural and remote areas are more likely to end up in an emergency department from a heart attack, car accident or diabetic coma. If they’re unconscious, and the medical team doesn’t have access to their health history, the team may not be able to provide life-saving care.”
Still, he acknowledged there was a risk with any information shared online.
“There is always a risk with online information, but the Alliance is satisfied that the Australian Digital Health Agency is using the most robust security measures to safeguard people’s health records, and the risk associated with My Health Record is small,” he said.
The government had previously invested $374.2 million over two years to expand Australia’s digital health system. Having the online record will allow you to upload personal notes and information, while you can also ask health professionals to withhold specific test reports and other medical information from your record.