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Expanded My Health Record likely to trigger ongoing cybersecurity and mobility requirements

by Justin Hendry •
Free resource

Topics: ICT Strategy; Digital Transformation; Cybersecurity; Fed.

With the adoption of an opt-out arrangement now almost certain for the My Health Record (MyHR), the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) is already looking to better protect the system from cyber threats and improve access from mobile devices over the next 12 months.

A Council of Australia Governments (COAG) Health Council meeting late last week saw the federal, state and territory health ministers agree to a national rollout of the opt-out model, which in line with the My Health Records Act 2012 must happen before any new rules and regulations pertaining to the MyHR are made by the federal Minister for Health.

The decision has been a long time coming for the MyHR, which received $485 million over four years in the 2015-16 Budget towards redevelopment, including funding for opt-out trials. Further funding may also be needed when the decision to extend the system to another 20 million citizens is made.

As the single accountable agency for digital health in Australia, ADHA has already identified and approved several improvements for the MyHR during 2016-17, including developing a method of identity verification, bolstering its protection from cyber threats, and improving user access to the system via external mobile applications, according to its inaugural Corporate Plan.

Although the plan was released before the Federal Government’s a decision on opt-out arrangement, the findings of an independent review of the opt-out trials by Siggins Miller were to be presented to the Department of Health in November 2016, according to its 2015-16 Annual Report.

The plan also indicates that an "approved business case for MyHR system participation" was the desired outcome for the agency – a sentiment that is backed by the Department of Health and at least one state digital heath agency, eHealth NSW. 

The National Infrastructure Operator for MyHR, Accenture, is tasked with operating and maintaining MyHR infrastructure, as well as a number of other core responsibilities, but the opt-out announcement could pave the way for further opportunities pertaining to data analytics, cybersecurity and mobility if the MyHR turns into one of Australia's largest and most sensitive databases.

Veda Advantage Information Services, for instance, has conducted an Identify verification services proof of concept for the system on behalf of the Department of Health. 

Further data analytics workloads are also increasingly likely as the ADHA and DoH look to better understand how data links to policy outcomes can be refined by improved data analysis.

Services will mostly be obtained from the Federal Government’s new Health Data Analytics Select Panel, but the ADHA may look outside the panel if particular expertise cannot be acquired.

However, the plan to mine de-identified health data from the MyHR has stalled, with the department postponing consultations on the development of a framework for the secondary use of MyHR data in October 2016.

The opt-out model is expected to improve health outcomes for citizens and reduce costs through better integration of the healthcare system.

Opt-out trials of the MyHR began in northern Queensland and NSW's Nepean/Blue Mountains region in March 2016, where only 1.9 per cent of the nearly one million Australians who had records automatically created chose to opt-out. Innovative opt-in trials were also performed in Western Australian and Victoria in April 2016 to increase participation rates.

Even before the implementation of the opt-out model, the latest statistical release from the agency shows that the number of Australians with a MyHR has grown from 4.31 million to 4.68 million in the last four months.

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