All AUSTRALIANS would be automatically enrolled for an e-Health record and have to opt out to protect their health privacy under sweeping changes to the $1 billion white elephant.
A government review of the troubled computer system is also considering changing the extent to which patients control what appears on the record.
And doctors could get paid to upload patient health summaries onto the record to get more clinicians involved in using it.
Launched in July 2012 the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record was meant to bring medical records into the digital age and contain an electronic patient health summary, a list of allergies and medications and eventually X-rays and test results.
Seventeen months after it was launched only a million people have signed up for the record and only one per cent of these records has a clinical summary uploaded by a doctor.
A government inquiry into the record headed by Uniting Care Health chief Richard Royle has been charged with overhauling the struggling policy.
The intention of his panel is “not to kill it but build on the foundation base”, he says.
“If there is one consistent theme it is that the industry wants to see it work,” says the man who will next year launch Australia’s first digitally integrated hospital.
Voluntary sign-ups for e-health records have been slow and the Consumer’s Health Forum which previously backed an opt-in record has told the inquiry it now wants an opt-out system.
“Australia should bite the bullet and make joining the national e-Health records system automatic for everyone unless they actively choose to opt out,” CHF spokesman Mark Metherell says.
“An opt out model is one of the issues we’re looking at,” says Mr Doyle.
Doctors have told the inquiry they won’t trust the record unless patients are prevented from changing or withholding any clinical data such as an abortion or mental illness from the record.
They say they need this information so they have a proper understanding of all the medications and health conditions the person has to get a correct diagnosis and ensure there are no medication mix-ups.
Mr Royle says the inquiry is considering the personal control issue but “don’t assume the AMA position is the prevailing view,” he said.
The Consumer’s Health Forum says “if there is to be opt out full personal control of the health record must be central to the system and if possible strengthened”.
Consumers who had health procedures such as an abortion or a mental illness they may want to hide would be worried if they lost control over the record.
The changes would completely change the nature of the Personally Controlled e-Health Record which the previous Labor government promised would be voluntary and controlled by the patient.
The review set up by incoming Health Minister Peter Dutton has received over 82 submissions and the inquiry has been told the record won’t be useful until a critical mass of patients and doctors begin using it.
Health Minister Peter Dutton has ridiculed the slow progress with the record and doctors have argued they are unlikely to quickly embrace the record until they get paid to upload patient health summaries.
The review is also looking at whether involving private information technology providers who run private e-health records could improve the system.
A draft report is due to go to Health Minister Peter Dutton before Christmas.
- NACCHO ehealth news:Failed $1 billion electronic health records system faces the axe (nacchocommunique.com)
- NACCHO eHealth review submissions close 22 Nov :eHealth vital for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health (nacchocommunique.com)
- Want privacy? Opt out of e-Health (news.com.au)
- Want privacy? Opt out of e-Health (adelaidenow.com.au)
- NACCHO chair launches Australia’s first Aboriginal Health Newspaper at AGM (nacchocommunique.com)