A healthy decision

While the rollout of the government’s electronic health record system, My Health Record, hasn’t exactly gone to plan, the drive to persuade the masses of its benefits is entering a new phase.

A new ‘opt-out’ rather than ‘opt-in’ trial has just been completed in the New South Wales Nepean Blue Mountains and in northern Queensland. Any of the million-plus people living in those areas who have not specifically requested not to have a digital health record will be automatically signed up.

This opt-out only approach is likely to be adopted nationwide soon. The electronic health record details a patient’s medications, allergies and a summary of their health problems. Eventually it will also include blood test and scan results and discharge summaries from hospitals. It will mean travellers won’t have to remember and repeat medical history such as chronic conditions or dates of recent tests with different or new healthcare providers.

The Federal Government argues that grey nomads are among the groups who would benefit most. “My Health Record can be beneficial if an individual is travelling interstate and needs to visit a healthcare provider, as the record can be viewed securely online anywhere at any time,” a Federal Department of Health spokesperson told the GNT. “Any doctor who is treating them and connected to My Health Record will be able to see their health information.”

For grey nomads with existing medical conditions, the system can help new healthcare professionals treat them effectively when they’re away from home. Retired travellers, Ray and Lorraine Gardner, suffer a number of chronic health conditions between them – including diabetes, melanoma, a back fusion, a nerve operation and a penicillin allergy.

The couple made sure they signed up for My Health Record before heading off on their most recent motorhome adventure … and they were glad they did.

“From as far away as Fremantle when a rash broke out, to Sale where Lorraine needed intravenous antibiotics, to Albany where blood tests were required, the online health information summary means information can be viewed securely online, anywhere, anytime,” said Ray. “Our GP at home is fabulous … but we can’t take him with us.”

Lorraine said she liked not having to worry about remembering their health history when seeing new doctors.

“Our health history travels with us,” she said. “It gives us peace of mind so we can get on with enjoying the journey.”

The Department says it uses bank-strength security including strong encryption and firewalls to protect personal health information.

There are also heavy penalties for anyone who misuses an individual’s health information. Of the 2.7 million Australians who have signed up so far for My Health Record by June, 2106, some 25% were aged over 50.


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