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Everything you need to know about My Health Record

7 minute read
young doctor looking at records on ipad

There’s lots of noise and discussion happening around the My Health Record (MHR) system lately. Especially since the government announced in July they’ll be automatically creating MHRs for every Australian by year’s end. With an extended deadline of January 31 2019 to opt out, we’ve put together a factual guide to help you make an informed choice.

What is My Health Record?

MHR is an online summary of all your important health information. You can access and manage how it’s updated and shared. MHR was launched in 2012 and is currently used by close to six million Australians.

It includes:

  • Medical conditions you’ve had.
  • Medicines or treatments you’re taking or have undergone.
  • Any allergies or adverse reactions you have.
  • Immunisations and test and scan results, like blood tests and ultrasounds.
  • Hospital discharge summaries.
  • Referral letters doctors have written for you.

New MHR users may find their record has no information or history the first time they log on. Others may find Medicare-related information, like medications they claimed through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) dating back up to two years. You can remove or restrict access to this information.

What are the benefits of having a MHR?

One of the biggest benefits of MHR is having a comprehensive and detailed snapshot of your health that’s centralised, secure and managed by you. In an emergency, it could also mean more informed and personalised care.

As our Chief Executive Officer, Mark Fitzgibbon, points out, “Having all of your medical and pharmaceutical data stored on a single record is very convenient, efficient and in this digital age, hardly ahead of its time. And high participation will ensure various ‘network effect’ benefits. However, more than anything else, the potential to better ‘personalise’ individual healthcare based upon algorithms written from de-identified population data is its greatest attribute. So my doctors will be able to overlay and compare my individual health profile with the actual experience of literally millions of other people with similar profiles and thereby, better guide me.”

person getting a medical check up with a doctor

Who can access MHR?

You’re in charge. You can view and manage your MHR, including what is shared and who with. You can nominate someone (like your partner, carer or a family member) to access it too. With your permission, healthcare providers can also see and update your record. They include general practices, hospitals, diagnostic imaging and pathology practices and pharmacies.

By default, all new MHRs are set for general access. This means healthcare providers will see your full record unless you hop online and revise your privacy settings. One exception is in life-threatening situations, where access to your MHR is lifted for five days to give you the best care possible.

Can the police, other government agencies or businesses like health insurers see MHR?

There’s been a lot of confusion around who can read your MHR, for example, police or health insurers. The short answer is no. The Australia Digital Health Agency (ADHA), who oversees MHR, said recently it “has not and will not release any documents without a court/coronial or similar order. No documents have been released in the last six years and none will be released in the future without a court order/coronial or similar order.”

How can I control access to MHR?

You’ll need a myGov account to view and manage your MHR. You can then:

  • View your record and adjust your privacy settings.
  • Nominate others to access it on your behalf.
  • Add additional information, such as emergency contacts.
  • Manage and restrict what information healthcare providers see.
  • Hide or remove documents you don’t want to be shared.
  • See who’s viewed your record.
  • Set a pin code to restrict access to specific records.
  • Set notification alerts for when someone views your e-health record.

What if I don’t want specific information or test results added to MHR?

That’s fine. Just tell the doctor or medical professional and they won’t add it to your record. Say, for example, you get a blood test. Your results are currently sent to the doctor who requested it. That won’t change. You’ll just have the additional option to add – or not add – the results to your MHR.

Will patient confidentiality still be protected through MHR?

It sure is. Health care providers are legally required under the ‘My Health Records Act 2012’ and the ‘Australian Privacy Act 1988’ to respect patient confidentiality as they always have. If someone’s found to have deliberately accessed the MHR system without permission, they face criminal penalties of up to two years in jail and fines up to $126,000.

Credit: OAICgov

How secure is MHR?

MHR data is stored on Australian servers and monitored by ADHA’s Cyber Security Centre. Various safeguards, including firewalls, strong encryption, an audit logging system and two-step verification for user logins, are also in place.

What does the healthcare industry think of it?

There’s strong support for MHR in the healthcare industry. Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association acting Chief Executive Dr Linc Thurecht says, “Apart from convenience, the potential benefits include better coordination of care among multiple healthcare providers, better-informed decisions on healthcare that involves both the patient and the healthcare provider, reduced duplication of diagnostic tests, fewer adverse drug events and reduced hospital admissions.”

While Leanne Wells, CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, notes, “What is important to keep in mind is that MHR offers to health care the potential for the sort of digital benefits we take for granted now in virtually every other area of modern life: instant and comprehensive communication of information.”

What does this mean for healthcare in the future?

It’s undeniable that the future of healthcare is digital, and with it comes some exciting advances that should see us live healthier, longer lives. But, how does this relate to the My Health Record?

My Health Record gives patients access to more holistic care. In the future, your nutritionist may be able to see that your physiotherapist has been treating you for a minor muscle injury and could offer you a range of dietary changes to help heal your body quicker. Or you could visit your dentist complaining of a sore jaw and they’d be able to see from your GP’s records that you’ve recently started taking medication which has a side effect of teeth grinding. This holistic care model takes out the guess work and gives you more power when it comes to your own health.

And the extra care doesn’t stop there.

Our ageing population is growing faster than ever, and research shows the amount of Aussies diagnosed with chronic disease has never been higher. At nib, we want to help our members get better – before they get sick. That’s why we offer a range of Health Management Programs at no additional cost for eligible customers*. When you have the ability to identify risk factors early on, you can make sure that you’re surrounded by your own personal team of coaches, nutritionists and medical professionals – meaning our members may be less likely to require painful surgeries and long hospital stays.

nib CEO, Mark Fitzgibbon explains, “We are moving to this world in which we’re able to, like never before, predict, prevent and better manage or better treat diseases based on knowledge we have of your individual health profile. We cannot do that without information about who you are … We desperately need this data to make the world a better place.”

Got more questions? Visit the MHR website or call them on 1800 723 471. ADHA also has a range of handy user guides available online.

*Available to eligible nib customers who’ve held Hospital Cover for 12 months and served their relevant waiting periods. Additional criteria varies according to each program.

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