Since 2012, the national My Health Record system has provided a secure online summary of Australian patients’ health information. Key parts of the health system are now connected, such as general practices, pharmacies, private and public hospitals. Over 4.7 million people and more than 9300 healthcare providers are participating.
In May 2017, the Australian Government announced that My Health Record would transition to an opt-out participation model. The decision means that by the end of 2018, every Australian will have a My Health Record unless they choose not to. This provides a transformative opportunity to support healthcare integration and deliver significant improvements in both the quality and efficiency of healthcare. Among other benefits, the My Health Record will:
- Reduce avoidable hospitalisations, adverse drugs events and duplication of tests
- Ensure that healthcare professionals have access to key patient information in the event of a medical emergency, or when a patient is away from home
- Improve the coordination of care and planning for people with chronic and complex conditions
The My Health Record is now set to be the core component of Australia’s national digital health service, connecting key parts of the health system such as general practices, pharmacies, private and public hospitals, specialists and allied health professionals. With these foundations established and operational, the opportunity now exists to enhance healthcare provider participation and clinical utility to deliver key benefits for the healthcare system.
Case study: My Health Record “connects the dots” for mother of five
Paige is a mother of five children from Northern Queensland who was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 15 and hearing loss after the birth of her first child.
"I have several health conditions and was pregnant with my fifth child earlier this year," Paige explained. "At one point during my pregnancy I had to keep track of more than 12 obstetric outpatient hospital visits, three neurology appointments, various pathology tests as well as GP visits. To add to this, my husband and I have five children. I'm often required to ‘join the dots’ between my healthcare providers to ensure I am provided with the best possible outcome for my family, but it became increasingly difficult to keep track of everything. My Health Record helps me keep a single record of my own health information, and the whole family has an individual My Health Record that is accessible by both me and my husband. Personally, it means my medical history is easily accessible to manage my health and this gives me the assurance that I'm receiving the best possible care. As a parent, it empowers me to take control and gain visibility of my family's healthcare and make the most informed decisions. "Knowing that my family’s medical history is easily accessible to treating clinicians and other healthcare providers is extremely reassuring."
There is strong support for My Health Record across all Australian states and territories, and professional and peak bodies, as a key enabler of modern healthcare, with the potential to deliver comprehensive, high-quality patient information.
" [The My Health Record] is the future."
- Australian Medical Association
" The My Health Record has many benefits including helping consumers become more proactive participants in the management of their own health."
- Cancer Council of Australia submission
" My Health Record provides a strong base with which to build on other shared care digital tools to enable integrated and personalised services, such as digital shared care plans, secure messaging and eReferrals. Data collected from My Health Record and other shared care platforms will contribute significantly to the evidence base for service improvements."
- eHealth NSW submission
" Prioritise making the My Health Record shareable and used by all health professionals and in all health settings. This fundamental step will have massive benefits to consumers, who will be able to trust that their information is being adequately communicated."
- Consumers Health Forum of Australia submission
My Health Record already provides a data platform that can foster and support digital innovation, delivering economic growth and leading to the development of digital health solutions with greater clinical utility, such as mobile health applications.,  Early app developers are already taking advantage of new interfaces on top of the My Health Record system, which allow people to see the medications they have taken, or to view clinical documents on their mobile devices. It is anticipated that the development of digital health solutions and mobile health apps will attract significant investment.
My Health Record has the potential to provide a variety of benefits to individuals, healthcare providers, the health system, and the economy as a whole. However, the benefits of the system will only be achieved when there is wide-scale use by not only individuals, but also healthcare providers. Healthcare providers have repeatedly articulated that they would engage with the system when the majority of their patients are registered, which will occur on implementation of the opt-out model in 2018.
The frequency of use of My Health Record services will also likely increase as the platform and associated services better meet health clinician needs. Improving clinical content within the My Health Record will support better health literacy for patients and enhance its use in healthcare. Already, people living in New South Wales and their healthcare providers can view pathology results through the My Health Record consumer portal and mobile applications.
Adopting a user-centric approach to usability, mobility and functionality enhancements, which give patients and providers contextually relevant services, will encourage ongoing use.[31-33] Greater utility will be realised through pushing information (e.g. notifications for patients) and pulling information (e.g. quickly accessing patient medical histories).
The opportunity to better understand population-level health needs and support the planning of future health services will build on Australia’s track record in the evaluation of new medicines and treatments.
The benefits of the My Health Record system will be realised through the delivery of three strategic objectives:
- Increase consumer participation through the delivery of national opt-out arrangements coupled with coordinated awareness activities.
- Increase core clinical content of the My Health Record system through improved system functionality and integration with existing clinical workflows.
- Achieve extensive adoption by healthcare providers across the industry, through national education and support, national peak body engagement and local education and support primarily using primary health networks (PHNs) as delivery partners.
Health Care Homes (Chronic Disease Management)
As part of the Australian Government’s Healthier Medicare initiative, the Government announced its plan to introduce a Health Care Home model to improve care for patients with chronic and complex conditions. Under this model, patients voluntarily enrol with a medical practice known as their Health Care Home. The Primary Health Care Advisory Group recommended the model, saying it “represents innovative, evidence-based best practice that harnesses the opportunity of digital health care.”
The My Health Record system will support Health Care Homes by enabling better integrated care through opportunities to manage care plans, assessing progress against goals, monitoring the activities of the rest of the team and sharing other documentation including event summaries, current medications, referrals, and discharge and diagnostic information.
Enabling the exchange of high-quality data between healthcare providers will enable healthcare teams and patients to better plan and coordinate care, and reduce barriers for healthcare providers to access and contribute to the My Health Record system.
How will Australia benefit?
- National opt-out will provide a transformative opportunity to support healthcare integration and deliver significant improvements in both the quality and efficiency of healthcare.
- Lives and money will be saved, with safer medicines management, better coordinated care and informed treatment decisions.
- There will be a more efficient health system (e.g. less time searching for patient data, reduced avoidable hospitalisations and tests).
- Patients will be put at the centre of their healthcare, so they can take greater responsibility for their own health.
- Data analytics will enable innovation and health service planning that will lead to more sustainable resourcing and new evidence-based clinical approaches.
Framework for Action - How Australia will deliver the benefits of digitally enabled health and care
Digital Health Test Beds program - Improving patient healthcare through digital trials