My Health Record: What you need to know

By the end of this year all Australians will have a digital My Health Record, unless they opt out. So what is it, and should you stay or go?

There is much debate swirling about the federal government’s My Health Record system – a digital record of your key health information.

It was actually introduced by in 2012 under a different name – but in a significant change, instead of signing up, people will automatically get a My Health Record unless they choose to opt out by October.

What is My Health Record and which data does it hold?

My Health Record holds key pieces of your medical information.

Healthcare professionals such as your pharmacist or GP will be able to upload your clinical documents, including:

  • Test and scan results.
  • Hospital discharge summaries.
  • Medications you’ve been prescribed.
  • Referral letters.

“Online you can see all your diagnoses; medicines; allergies; when you’ve been to hospital, the discharge summaries; blood tests,” says Australian Digital Health Agency chief medical advisor Professor Meredith Makeham.

“You can store them all in this one secure place, and you decide what goes in there and who has access to it.”

Up to two years of past Medicare data may also be added to your record, including organ donation decisions, immunisation records, and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme information.

“You can also put your own health notes in there, in the consumer-entered health notes section,” Prof Makeham says.

This information may include emergency contact details, current medications, allergy and previous allergic reactions, and advance care plans that might detail wishes for future medical treatment.

Listen to Prof Makeham discuss My Health Record on House of Wellness Radio.

What are the benefits of My Health Record?

If you allow it, your healthcare providers – including GPs, specialists, and pharmacists – can access your data.

This can let them to see critical information that could potentially save your life or that of a loved one, especially in an emergency.

It may help healthcare providers make critical decisions about the best course of action for your care and treatment.

It also keeps all your health information, and that of your children, in one place.

“From a patient’s point of view, it’s so hard to remember the details of the medicines you’ve been prescribed, or what’s happened to you in complicated health encounters people sometimes have,” Prof Makeham says.

Is My Health Record secure?

Some people have expressed concerns about the security of the information held in My Health Record, including fears of inappropriate use or hacking.

But authorities say there are strong safeguards in place to protect patient health data and access to it, along with tough legislation to shield unauthorised use.

It is monitored by the Cyber Security Centre within the Australian Digital Health agency.

“The system is so incredibly secure from a cybersecurity perspective – we’ve had no breaches of the system in the six years it has been operating, it’s constantly surveilled and threat tested, has the highest level of security and meets the strict cybersecurity standards,” Prof Makeham says.

Healthcare providers are securely connected to the My Health Record system and only those managing your care can upload information to your profile.

There are lots of things you can do to decide who sees the information and how you can control people’s access to it.

What about privacy?

You can decide which information is included, and who can see it, through the privacy settings on My Health Record.

You can also ask your healthcare provide not to upload a summary, or to remove it later if you change your mind.

“There are lots of things you can do to decide who sees that information and how you can control people’s access to it,” Prof Makeham says.

“You can put a PIN code over that information and unless you actually share that PIN code with someone, no one can actually see it.”

How doctors will access your My Health Record in an emergency

If you set an access code on your My Health Record, but you cannot provide healthcare workers access to your records in an emergency (for example, if you are unconscious), hospital staff may be granted emergency access.

Emergency access may also be granted if there is a threat to public health (for example, to identify a possible infection and prevent it spreading).

All access, including emergency access to a My Health Record, is registered, so you can monitor each log in to your file.

How to opt out of My Health Record

If you don’t want a My Health Record, you need to opt out by October 15, 2018.

After this date, a My Health Record will be created automatically for you.

However, you can decide to delete your My Health Record any time.

If you opt out and change your mind down the track, you can always create a My Health Record.

Key Statistics:

  • 9 million Australians already have a My Health Record
  • 12,900 health professionals are connected to the system
  • More than 6.5 million clinical documents have been uploaded to My Health Record

For more information, phone 1800 723 471 or visit My Health Record.