Health Minister Sussan Ley has announced that “the Abbott Government will deliver a rebooted personalised myHealth Record system for patients and doctors that will trial an opt-out, rather than opt-in, option as part of a $485 million budget rescue package (…).”
I like the word ‘rebooted’, as it implies a fresh start and that is certainly what the Australian e-health records system needs. ‘MyHealth record’ sounds better than PCEHR too. But many questions remain, including the most important one: will clinicians use the renamed system once it’s opt-out instead of opt-in?
The legal stuff
At the moment the information in the PCEHR may be used by the Government for data mining, law enforcement purposes and ‘other purposes authorised by law’, for up to 130 years, even after a patient or provider has opted out.
When healthcare organisations or practices cancel the PCEHR participation agreement, seven of the fourteen clauses survive termination, including liability of providers.
Other concerns are that the Minister of Health may make or change PCEHR rules without legislation and the Department of Health can change the participation agreement at any time without the need for input from doctors or patients.
If the Health Minister is serious about engaging us, here are some of the issues that must be resolved:
- The purpose of the PCEHR (myHealth Record) must be clear
- The legal framework should be reviewed, and any changes must be agreed upon by consumers and clinicians
- If consumers want to opt out at any stage, they should have the option to have their data removed from the system
- If providers opt out at any stage, their liability should end as well.
And that’s just the beginning. Here’s to hoping that the $485 million will be spent wisely.