The deadline to 'opt out' is today. However, with the latest legislative change, it is possible to permanently delete your record at a later date. It is also possible to create a record at a later date. So, the good news is, that you can decide later.
If you are likely to end up in Emergency Departments or regularly see multiple health professionals, it may be worth the effort from you and your health professionals to opt-in and keep your MyHR up-to-date, provided you are not concerned about privacy issues and breaches.
Tips on how to keep your MyHR up-to-date
Log in to your MyHR regularly and manage it. Look at your settings*. Signon my.gov.au . Delegate to your carer or next of kin, if they are more well versed.
Tell all health professionals that you see that you would like your MyHR updated at the beginning of your appointment/consultation or when making your appointment. They will not automatically do so if not. It may be possible to set up a standing instruction with your regular health professionals if they agree.
Allow time for your health professional to update your MyHR if necessary by making a longer appointment or making a specific appointment.
Ask questions and verify your medical information on your MyHR with your health professional if you do not understand or you think is not accurate.
If you do attend an Emergency Department, tell them you have a MyHR and help them verify that it is up-to-date. Let them know if not.
*Note: Instructions on how to control access to your MyHR are at www.myhealthrecord.gov.au but be careful not to leave out critical information as you will be liable.
Let's take a look at how to decide. It is really up to the individual as the MyHR is your record under your control, which you will have to actively manage. Your health professionals are only contributing and using the information when they are asked to by you. They will make a judgement at the time, if your MyHR is up to date or useful, which is a whole new ballgame in itself.
Note: Your health professional will still keep their own medical notes on you as they have always done.
Note: Your health professional will still communicate formally between each other when there is a formal referral process.
Note: Your health professional has no obligation to update your MyHR unless you instruct them. They cannot look at your MyHR unless you authorise or instruct them to, except in an emergency situation.
Note: If you require your MyHealthRecord to be updated by your health practitioner, fees may apply. If you attend a doctor's appointment, Medicare will cover all or a portion of fees.
But how will MyHealthRecord help?
After all, the Australian Government has spent $2b of taxpayers money on the system so far.
1. The greatest benefit is when you present to an Emergency Department and they can look up your allergies, current drugs, list of conditions/history and vaccinations, discharges, test results. However, they will need to be up-to-date.
2. Access to the above information by another health professional, due to speciality, needs, travel or urgency, is possible without being sent directly.
3. Policy makers and researchers can use the de-identified data from MyHR system.
Note: In cases without a formal referral arrangement between the health professionals that you attend, information that would not currently be relayed from your main doctor to other health practitioners will become available. However, your main doctor will not know new information uploaded to MyHR and may not receive any information back. It is therefore your responsibility to facilitate communication or make an appointment, to make sure someone follows up any concerns.
Note: Although you can attend multiple health providers of the same speciality, it is still a better option for your health to try to maintain one provider. Fragmented care is lesser in quality and any time used communicating between the health providers can be used to care for you instead.
What are the costs/risks of MyHealthRecord?
1. Keeping your MyHR up-to-date will require your effort. Refer to 'Tips on how to keep your MyHR up-to-date'. It is a risk to your health if not. This, however, can be weighed alongside the current system, where patients attending Emergency Departments are often/possibly not well versed in their own conditions. It may be said that 'maybe something is better than nothing'.
2. Currently, health professionals are legislated to maintain the privacy of your medical records by storing them securely and only releasing them with your authority or with a legal document, regardless of the requesting party. Exceptions exist under mandatory reporting laws of each state, which is usually only in cases of risks of significant harm. With the MyHR, latest legislative changes barred access without legal document, to several parties i.e. Insurance Companies, employers, law enforcement agencies and other government agencies. We did not find, from our information sources, any elaboration of what 'other government agencies' include or mention of other parties. There may be other groups of concern that are not expressly barred.
Note: If you have concerns about Mental Health or Drug & Alcohol issues being uploaded into MyHR, instruct your health professional to leave them out.
Note: You will lose access to your child's MyHR from 14 years old and it is up to them to manage it. As with anything online, make sure that they want their information from childhood there forever or delete it.
3. As with any information technology system, the security is as tight as the effort of the people who seek to breach it and how good the security department is at keeping up. Compared to the current system of medical records kept by individual health practitioner, under strict guidelines, it can be argued that a centralised MyHR system is a much more attractive target for interested parties. Having said that, our society is conducting many financial transactions, arguably of similar importance as our medical information, online and running the risk. By all accounts, the experts are saying, breaches will happen, but you may be happy to run the risk.
In any case, Australian residents have been given the MyHR system to use, with no outright fees (although it has been paid for by your taxes!). Our recommendation is for you to make your own choice to be in or out, based on benefits vs effort/costs/risks.
This is an opinion piece.