The Abbott Government plans to deliver a rebooted personalised myHealth Record system for patients and doctors that will trial an opt-out, rather than opt-in, option as part of a $485 million budget rescue package to salvage the troubled national electronic medical records system.
Minister for Health Sussan Ley announced the Abbott Government would redevelop the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record system set up under the previous Labor Federal Government.
Less-than one in 10 Australians are currently signed up to the existing PCEHR system, which is opt-in, with an independent review last year finding this was not a large enough sample to make it an effective national system or worth the time and effort for patients and doctors using it.
Ley says a functioning national electronic medical records system is essential to ensure doctors, nurses and pharmacists across the country have instant access to the information needed to treat patients safely and efficiently without having to “gamble on unknowns” in their medical history.
“As patients, we’ve all been in situations where we’ve had to attend another GP surgery because we were out-of-town or couldn’t get an appointment with our regular docto,” the Minister says.
“It can be a time-consuming and often frustrating experience for patients and doctors alike.
“And as a parent of three children, I recognise the benefits of having your family’s personal health information safely stored and accessible to healthcare providers. In the case of allergic reactions or medicine emergencies, having fast access to critical health data could be a matter of life or death.
“In this modern world where technology makes information sharing boundless, there’s no excuse for Australia not to have a functioning national e-health system and that’s what the Abbott Government’s revamped myHealth Record aims to achieve.”
Ley says the Government is committed to implementing the key recommendations from the independent review into why Labor’s e-health system had failed to attract patients signing up.
“We’re committed to delivering strong primary care system for Australians and all of the feedback I’ve received from doctors and patients throughout my recent Medicare consultations is that a functioning national e-health system is critical to achieving this,” she says.
“That’s why we’ve delivered this $485 million rescue package to ensure Labor’s mistakes aren’t repeated a second time.”
Ley says transforming the system from opt-in to opt-out for patients is a key recommendation of the independent review of Labor’s PCEHR.
“Doctors have indicated they’re much more likely to use the system if all their patients have a record.
“We also need full coverage if we’re to cut down on inefficiencies created by not having one seamless records system, such as double ups with testing, prescriptions and other procedures.”
In addition to improving patient health outcomes, it has also been identified that a fully-functioning national e-health system could save taxpayers $2.5 billion per year within a decade by reducing inefficiencies, with an additional $1.6 billion in annual savings also delivered to the states.
However, Ley says it is important the Government trials the implementation of opt-out to ensure public confidence in the system was maintained.
She says the previous system was rolled out without having been thought through fully.
“It’s important that all Australians are signed up to ensure we have a functioning system and trialling an opt-out model means we can do it carefully, methodically and ensure the appropriate protections are in place to give patients peace of mind.”
Ley says clinicians participating in the opt-out trials will receive hands-on training and follow-up support to build their confidence and understanding in using the system – another recommendation.
The decision to transform the PCEHR into a new myHealth Record will also see the system made more user-friendly and better reflect the needs of health professionals, including better alignment with existing clinical workflows within practices, and to ensure additional information such as current medications lists, and known adverse drug interactions are easily identified by practitioners.
Key says the Government will use the Budget to deliver on another key recommendation to strengthen governance arrangements for the rollout and management of a national e-health system.
“The current governance arrangements set up by Labor have been heavily criticised as overly complicated and bureaucratic and fail to represent the health sector in general.”
She announced that, in line with the recommendations of the review, the National E-Health Transition Authority will be replaced with the Australian Commission for eHealth from July 2016, and a transition taskforce will be established to manage the transition between the two.
The PCEHR operations and associated governance arrangements will also transition from the Department of Health to the new Commission, with the e-health policy function remaining with the Department.
“These governance changes have been discussed with and are supported by states and territories, and will improve the accountability and transparency of arrangements,” Ley says.