More than one million people will receive a My Health Record this year, paving the way for a “new class” of chronic disease and epidemiological data, a Government e-health adviser says.
The My Health Record program, which has replaced the former Labor government’s Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record, is trialling an opt-out, rather than opt-in, enrolment process.
In the coming months, all individuals in the Northern Queensland and Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Networks will receive a My Health Record, unless they choose not to have one created for them.
Trial participants will have a period of time to access their record and set any controls such as access for specific providers. By mid-2016, the Department of Health plans to make the records available for healthcare providers to access and update for their patients.
The Department of Health’s Paul Madden said there were significant potential benefits in terms of what could be derived at a population health level, once the majority of Australians were involved in the program.
“The data that will be available from the My Health Record will provide a new class of chronic disease and epidemiological data, which will be in the context of the patient’s entire interaction with the health system, not just for a specific condition,” said Mr Madden, who is the Deputy Secretary/Special Adviser for Strategic Health Systems and Information Management.
“Most of the data in the My Health Record system is coded to specific standards, so the quality and reliability will also be higher than experienced in many other clinical systems.”
Researchers will be able to access the data at a population level, de-identified and possibly aggregated, with consultation for the processes and governance for this to start in early 2016.
The Government is also working with several app developers to make it mobile phone and app accessible, with plans to make the My Health Record system mobile-enabled by mid-2016. The apps will be able to access, provide views of and update data for individuals, based on their informed consent.
More than 2.5 million people, or about 11% of Australia’s total population, are registered for a My Health Record and about 8000 healthcare providers are registered.
However, Mr Madden said that under an opt-out enrolment process, international experience suggested about 1% of the population was likely to opt out.
The Public Health Association of Australia’s chief executive officer, Michael Moore, said having the vast majority of Australians enrolled in the e-health system would allow public health specialists to build a much better picture of the nation’s health.
“When it comes to major problems like obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes and other forms of chronic disease, this will give epidemiologists a much better chance to interrogate that information,” he said.
However, the chair of the Australian Medical Association Council of General Practice, Dr Brian Morton, was sceptical of any potential benefits to come out of the My Health Record, given what he described as its poor implementation and usability.
“I support it in principle, but the implementation is really leaving a bad taste in general practice,” Dr Morton said.
Communication and education on the My Health Record program for healthcare providers in the trial areas is expected to take place in the lead-up to the records becoming available in mid-2016.