“The great digital health revolution lies literally in the palms of consumers,” said Minister for Health Susan Ley in her address to the National Press Club on Wednesday 28 October.
An opt-out pilot of the My Health Record (MyHR) will begin in early 2016 as part of the Federal Government’s plan to overhaul the underperforming eHealth model and improve the integration of the national healthcare system.
The trials will see one million MyHR's automatically created for individuals in far north Queensland and the Nepean/Blue Mountains region in New South Wales. Those individuals who do not wish to possess a medical record will be given the option to opt-out.
Finalisation of the Health Legislation Amendment (eHealth) Bill 2015 in the Senate last month enabled the trials to take place and for the government to extend the arrangements nationally, if the trials prove successful.
Currently only one in 10 Australians have signed up to the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR), which has been slow to take off because of its previous opt-in foundation.
A December 2013 review of the PCEHR found that the opt-in model was ineffective for a national system designed to improve access to patient information and recommended transitioning to an opt-out model by January 2015 to improve systems integration.
Abolition of the National e-Health Transition Authority (NeHTA) was also endorsed by this review.
At an Australian Information Industry Association Healthcare Forum in September2015, Paul Madden, Deputy Secretary and Special Adviser, Strategic Health Systems and Information Management at the Department of Health (Health), said that the opt-out trials would give some insight as to the community’s acceptance of the system, as well as clinician support for the system.
Feedback received by Health had suggested there was ambivalence among the clinical community about using the system at all because of the limited number of patients that had registered for a PCEHR. Switching to the opt-out model is expected to increase clinician support and use of the system.
Giving consumers full open-source access to health data would ensure greater control over health outcomes, Ley told the Press Club audience. This would give rise to potential applications by third-parties, such as app developers, satisfying the call for “effective support for users of the system via the web, mobile applications and over the phone” in the 2013 review.
“What if you, as a consumer, were able to take your personal Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme data to a health care service; to an app developer; to a dietician; to a retailer and say how you deliver the best health services for my individual needs?,” asked Ley.
Provisions within the eHealth Bill ensure that individuals will have primary control over their MyHR and even have “the ability to instruct healthcare providers not to upload certain information into their health record,” said Ley during the Bill’s Second Reading.
Earlier in October Ley announced the Implementation Taskforce Steering Committee, tasked with establishing the Australian Commission for eHealth (ACeH) and responsible for eHealth from July 2016.
The 2015-16 Budget allocated $485 million over four years towards the redevelopment of My Health Record which includes funding for the foundations of eHealth and trialling opt-out arrangements.
MyHR will continue operating on an opt-in basis in other areas during the pilot period.