My Health Record is the key to improving medication safety, and pharmacists have a crucial role, says Dr Shane Jackson

Australia’s healthcare system is under great strain with rising costs of care, increasing levels of chronic disease, an ageing population.

Numerous reports have indicated that medication related issues cost our healthcare system an extraordinary amount of money – $1.2 billion and 230,000 hospital admissions annually.

This is the tip of the iceberg. It does not include general practice or specialist visits, costs of investigations, or presentations to the community pharmacy because of medication-related issues. It is timely and appropriate that a national shared medical record system is available to healthcare practitioners and patients to improve the outcomes of healthcare in this country.

Spreading rapidly

The My Health Record System expansion means that by the end of 2018 every Australian will get a digital health record unless they decide to opt out. Importantly, people with a My Health Record can control who accesses their My Health Record and receive information in real-time when their information has been accessed. More than 6.1 million Australians have already opted-in for a My Health Record, with about two-thirds of pharmacies registered to access the system and a rapidly increasing volume of medicines information available for inclusion in My Health Records as they are created.

Recently, the government announced it will amend legislation to strengthen privacy protections in My Health Record in response to public concerns about the privacy of personal health information and who can access it. This should give patients and health providers greater confidence to engage with the system safely and securely.

In the past, pharmacists have stored information such as medication dispensing histories that may not have been available to other healthcare professionals, including the patient’s general practitioner (GP). By making this information securely available to other relevant healthcare providers through My Health Record, pharmacists can provide a comprehensive overview of the patient’s medicine use (including medication adherence), which may improve health outcomes.

In particular, access to dispensing records and other medication-related histories can facilitate effective and efficient medicines reconciliation at transitions of care, such as admission to, and discharge from hospital.

The MHR revolution

The expansion of My Health Record will be a game changer in the care of patients by pharmacists. It allows, with patient consent, access to verifiable clinical information that is not readily available to the pharmacist. Information such as discharge summaries, shared health summaries (containing medical conditions, medications, allergies and vaccinations), specialist letters, and pathology reports as well as prescribing and dispensing information.

Access to this information will allow pharmacists to deliver more effective and efficient care of their patients.

The clinical information in My Health Record will transform the effectiveness of Home Medicines Reviews or Residential Medication Management Reviews for pharmacists performing these programs. Hopefully in the future, pharmacists will be able to insert reports directly to a patients My Health Record, allowing their other healthcare professionals to view them.

Meaningful use of the My Health Record system by pharmacists has the potential to significantly reduce the burden of medication misadventure that we see in our healthcare system. Reducing healthcare expenditure on medication related problems allows better use of healthcare resources, and more importantly, improved health outcomes for patients.

The My Health Record System will be a significant enabler of pharmacist practice in the future, and will allow pharmacists to significantly contribute to improved medicines management. Pharmacists will have a greater ability to address the significant issues we have with medication misadventure in Australia by utilising the My Health Record system, now and in the future. More information about pharmacy and My Health Record is available on the My Health Record website.

Shane Jackson

Dr Shane Jackson is National President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and a Tasmanian-based community pharmacy owner and accredited consultant pharmacist. He is a Clinical Reference Lead with the Australian Digital Health Agency.