MHR a ‘game changer’ for pharmacist participation

doctor holding up a bottle of pills

The Government has announced that the opt-out period for My Health Record will run from 16 July until 15 October 2018

And stakeholders including the PSA and Pharmacy Guild say participation in the system is likely to change how pharmacists are viewed by other health professionals.

Currently around 5.7 million Australians already have a My Health Record, which will provide a summary of their health information. The system has the support of a number of health stakeholders, including the Pharmacy Guild and PSA.

As well as having the ability to opt out of the system during the July-October period, patients can also cancel their My Health Record at any time after the end of the opt-out period – or they can decide to create one later if they opted out.

The Health Department has stressed that the system will have “strong safeguards” to protect the data, and will be subject to some of the strongest legislation in the world to prevent unauthorised use.

Health Minister Greg Hunt announced late last week that the Government has developed a framework which will define how data on the My Health Record system can be used for research and public health purposes while preserving privacy and security of data in the system.

He explained how the Government has addressed privacy concerns, and how patients concerned about privacy have a number of options regarding the system.

As well as being able to opt out altogether, patients will also be able to elect to have a My Health Record without having their data used for research and public health purposes.

The Health Minister also said that the data cannot be used for commercial and non-health-related purposes, including direct marketing to consumers, insurance assessments, and eligibility for welfare benefits. Insurance companies will not have access to the data.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare will be appointed as the organisation to manage and release datasets for the My Health Record Secondary Use of Data Governance Board.

Data will not immediately flow from My Health Record; the AIHW Ethics Committee will first consult with stakeholders on planned ethics and approvals processes to ensure protection of individuals privacy, the Minister said.

The My Health Record Secondary Use of Data Governance Board will be responsible for, and release regular statements about, data availability and quality.

Australia’s 31 Primary Health Networks will also support their local communities with tailored communications on My Health Record, in partnership with consumer and clinical peak bodies and state and territory governments.

The benefits will be explained for audiences in both health and non-health settings including pharmacies, GP practices, hospitals and corporate and consumer contexts.

The announcement follows the Government’s 2017 Budget allocation of $374.2 million over two years to expand Australia’s digital health system.

During the opt-out period, individuals who do not want a record will be able to opt out by visiting the My Health Record website or by calling 1800 723 471 for phone-based assistance.

PSA National President Dr Shane Jackson says that My Health Record is a “game changer” for pharmacists’ contribution to enhancing medication safety and ensuring quality use of medicines.

“By integrating the My Health Record system into their practice, pharmacists will be able to optimise the outcomes associated with medicines. The information available in the My Health Record system will allow pharmacists to deliver more effective and efficient care,” he says.

Pharmacy Guild of Australia National President George Tambassis says the national expansion of My Health Record will support increased use of the system by pharmacists and sustainable healthcare delivery.

“The Guild is committed to helping build the digital health capabilities of community pharmacies and advance the efficiency, quality, and delivery of healthcare to improve health outcomes for all Australians.

“We are working with the Australian Digital Health Agency to ensure that community pharmacy dispensing and medicine-related services are fully integrated into the My Health Record,” Mr Tambassis says.

At a recent interactive session at APP on what pharmacists wanted from the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement, 57% of attendees said they had registered for or activated their access to My Health Record.

Guild executive director David Quilty said that only a few weeks previously, figures had indicated that only around 28% of pharmacies had registered – “so in this room we have some proactive registrants”.

“We are encouraging pharmacy to register and activate the My Health Record,” he said. “The view is around 23 million Australians will have a My Health Record by the end of this year.”

He said My Health Record was “strategically very valuable” for pharmacists, “because one of our challenges is to become a recognised part of the broader primary health system… we’re often seen, particularly by doctors, as a bit of an island”.

My Health Record will increase the visibility of the interactions pharmacists have with their patients within the broader health system, he said.

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