Information | Opinion
My Health Record – what is it and should you opt out?
David Wilson - Aug 06, 2018
The Australian Digital Health Agency is a government-funded entity with the purpose of improving health outcomes for Australians through the delivery of digital healthcare systems and the national digital health strategy for Australia. One way they set out to do this is via My Health Record, an online summary of your key health information such as allergies, medicines you are taking and treatments you have received as well as pathology results. This information can be accessed by doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers (and yourself) inline with your access controls. This type of control includes the ability to:
- add your own notes on allergies and allergic reactions
- choose who can and who cannot see your information
- see the information your healthcare professionals can see
- set up and receive SMS notifications.
Are there benefits?
Aside from uploading your own notes, each time you see a doctor you can give them permission to add information from your consultation to your My Health Record. By allowing your doctors to add, view and share documents in your record, this enables them to make better decisions, as well as diagnose and provide more tailored treatments to you. At the time of your consultation, you have the right to ask certain information be withheld from your record. One downside of a system like this is data quality. It is not a comprehensive history of your medical record, so could it really be relied on by a doctor in an emergency situation, or is it a hindrance and potential distraction? The MHR website states that “Your previous medical history such as older tests and medical reports will not be available within your new My Health Record.” You can, however, have Medicare data added to your record.
Is it secure?
There are inherent risks when transmitting and storing personal information online, and let’s face it, we will always question security when it comes to personal data, especially with something as important as records pertaining to your health. The misuse of this information could be, in an extreme case, used against you in a fatal way. My Health Record states that they have “multi-layered and strong safeguards in place to protect your information including encryption, firewalls, secure login, authentication mechanisms and audit logging”. With hackers targeting health-related data over credit card data, it will be no surprise that their systems will be put to test.
By default, you will be given a My Health Record. You have until the 15th of October to opt out of having a record created for you via the MHR website. You will need to provide identification to verify your identity. If you are one of the 5.9 million Australians that already have a My Health Record, you will need to opt out via your myGov account, Medicare enrolment form (for a newborn), at a Medicare Service Centre or by calling the Helpline on 1800 723 471. If you opt out now, you can create one anytime in the future.
If you’re thinking about opting out, I suggest you weigh up the pros and cons and decide whether a My Health Record is beneficial to you and your health. With a seemingly strong security protocol in place and the fact that my data cannot be accessed by insurance companies and your data cannot be sold, puts me a little at ease. I, for one, like the idea of having all my medical history in one location for a doctor (GP or emergency) to treat me more effectively or efficiently, but if a complete record is not available, is it a ‘time-wasting’ guide, or a useful tool to those treating me? A recent poll on the AMA’s Doctors Portal revealed that 71% of the 201 participants (clinicians) think that the My Health Record will not improve patient outcomes, while 12% think it will. Will it be effective in the field? Time will tell…
You can read more about the My Health Record privacy and security settings here.