Educate Aussies on MHR benefits: Quilty

The Pharmacy Guild’s David Quilty has spoken out about the embattled My Health Record, writing that it will put an end to pharmacy “health islands”

Debate continues to rage over My Health Record, with AMA president Dr Tony Bartone writing in Fairfax Media that the system’s benefits greatly outweigh any concerns, while former AMA president Professor Kerryn Phelphs expressed some fears, especially for those with sensitive conditions such as HIV/AIDS or women who have had abortions.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Greg Hunt told 2GB’s Ray Hadley that the Government “were expecting up to 90% would be enrolled,” and that it looked as though this percentage would be exceeded.

The Guild’s executive director David Quilty has written in this week’s edition of Forefront that there is a good reason why “virtually every major peak health body supports the ‘opt out’ My Health Record”.

“They realise that it will provide health practitioners with significantly enhanced access to the information they need to treat their patients safely and effectively,” Mr Quilty writes.

“Nowhere is this more readily apparent than in relation to the core role of community pharmacies.

“Until now, pharmacies have operated as health islands relying upon individual scripts, their own dispensing records and patients’ personal recollections.

“They have had little or no knowledge of the medicines dispensed by other pharmacies.

“They have not had access to discharge summaries to understand the medicines that their patients have been dispensed when they leave hospital.

“They have had scant access to information about patient allergies or previous adverse reactions to medications unless it is stored on their own dispensing systems.

“They have had little knowledge of patients’ recent medical events, including diagnoses, pathology and point-of-care tests and diagnostic imaging.

“In all these circumstances, the local pharmacist has had to rely on the information conveyed by patients themselves and liaising where they can with their fellow health professionals.”

GPs, specialists, allied health professionals and hospital staff have all suffered from a lack of “clear line of sight” to each other as well.

Mr Quilty writes that My Health Record is “not a panacea,” and will only be as good as the information entered into it and the practical clinical uses made of it. For this reason, it’s important to inform the public about its benefits and encourage acceptance, takeup and use.

“Health professionals should be encouraging their patients to actively use the My Health Record as a tool that enables them to better understand their health and empowers them to take greater personal responsibility for their own medical needs.”

He says privacy concerns raised in the media are valid, and it is important that the Digital Health Agency works to instil public confidence by addressing these issues while focusing on the system’s “undoubted benefits,” Mr Quilty writes.


More docs opposed

Meanwhile, the Doctors Reform Society has criticised the “opt out” approach.

The implementation of MHR to date has raised many more questions than answers, said Dr Tim Woodruff, president of the group.

Those who may be at most risk of having their data misused are often the least likely to understand the possible negative consequences or how to avoid them, he warns, calling on the Federal Government to “opt out of forcing people to opt in by default”.

“Until now people were asked if they wished to have such a record. This has changed and individuals are required to opt out by October 15th on a website with information which even I find hard to understand,” he says.

“If individuals don’t opt out then their private medical information will be digitised for any health provider to see. This is not informed consent.

“There already appear to be examples of people finding that their children have been opted in without the parent’s awareness that they may sometime or other have signed something saying they agree. This is not informed consent.

“Access to these records by government agencies with no interest in health eg courts, police, will be permitted without the need for a warrant issued by an independent judicial officer as is currently required. This would appear to be an unreasonable breach of privacy.

“The risk of illegal access to data by hackers for private commercial uses is unknown but examples exist of successful hacking happening in resource rich countries like Singapore. This is deeply concerning. Do we need this much concentration of information?”

Dr Woodruff says the system may save some lives, and has the potential to make his work, and that of many doctors, easier.

However, “this is hardly a reason to compromise privacy”.

Dr Shane Jackson, president of the PSA, told the AJP yesterday that the organisation is a staunch supporter of digital health initiatives such as My Health Record, but it should be up to the individual to decide whether or not to have one.

“The security controls are very robust and, in addition, there’s significant penalties if people access the record inappropriately.

“People should feel comfortable about opting in to the My Health Record, but again it’s an individual’s decision.”

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