The article by Mark Harris: ‘The interface between primary health care and population health: challenges and opportunities for prevention’ (2016;26(1):e2611600) provides a good summary of the situation.
I am writing to correct what I believe is a misapprehension expressed in the article about the role and function of the Commonwealth’s Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record system (PCEHR), recently renamed as the My Health Record (MyHR) system. The author states: “The personally controlled electronic health record, now called ‘My Health Record’, has the potential to improve patient engagement and communication from referral providers back to general practice”.
There is a widespread belief and hope that the PCEHR/MyHR is or can be a communication system that is or should be able to convey messages between the owner of a PCEHR/MyHR record and the health professionals who are caring for that person, and between health professionals caring for that person. However, the PCEHR/MyHR is not intended, designed or able to replace the current direct communications between health professionals who are caring for a person. This is largely because it is simply and only a repository of documents, essentially like an electronic filing cabinet.
What will improve – and is already improving – communication between health professionals who are caring for a person, are electronic systems of communication that link or integrate with GPs’ clinical computer systems, of which currently available ones are Secure Message Delivery systems such as Argus and Healthlink, and online systems such as cdmNet. Health professionals have been and are still crying out for these methods of communication to be made easier still to use, which would cost a very small fraction of the $1.5 billion that has been spent to date or committed to NeHTA (the National E-Health Transition Authority) and the PCEHR/MyHR.
Oliver Frank MBBS PhD FRACGP FACHI, University Senior Research Fellow, Discipline of General Practice, School of Medicine, The University of Adelaide
I think Dr Frank makes a good point of clarification. Being able to view the patient’s record potentially facilitates continuity and consistency of care (as providers will have better understanding of the patient’s care from other providers). However he is correct – it will not replace direct communication, especially where patients are referred or handed over.
Mark Harris, Director, Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, University of New South Wales