My Health Record – Opt In or Opt Out? The Pros and Cons

By: Anne Rinaudo

The opt out period for the My Health Record system will end on November 15. My Health Record is a Federal government initiative that aggregates all of your health data in one place. It has actually been operating for six years on an opt in basis and has about six million users.

Should you opt out?

Open House looked at some of the pros and cons of My Health Record. Open House presenter, Stephen O’Doherty, talked with two experts who went through the arguments for and against the My Health Record from both a medical and legal perspective. Dr Jo-Anne Manski Nankervis is Senior Lecturer at Melbourne University, a General Practitioner and researcher in clinical data analytics. She talked about the medical implications and Dr Megan Prictor a Melbourne Law School Research Fellow considered the legal issues that arise.

The arguments for My Health Record are that it simplifies record keeping and by allowing doctors to see all your health information in one place it could help with diagnosis and correct medications. That sort of information, collected in one place will be very useful for older people with complex chronic health conditions and multiple medications.

The system would also be helpful for people who see a range of providers and in the end it should make healthcare cheaper and avoid medication errors. In an emergency, hospitals could immediately access relevant and even life saving information about you.

Sensitive health information

On the other hand, there are concerns about the very private nature of health information and just who can access My Health Record. While there are levels of access set by the patient people are still concerned about the security of the data and the potential for it to be hacked or hijacked. There have been fears expressed that information about mental health or HIV status and similar sensitive information could become public.

In fact, health records in Singapore were the subject of a cyber attack revealed on July 20. Hackers stole personal data in Singapore belonging to some 1.5 million people, or about a quarter of the population, officials said. In that attack, even the Singaporean Prime Minister’s health records made public. The hackers broke into the government health database in a “deliberate, targeted and well-planned” attack, according to a government statement.

The Australian Government has had its own problems with computers as the issues around the 2016 Census showed. Add to that the concerns expressed by former AMA president Karen Phelps, and the former head of digital transformation for the government and it is clear why people are nervous.

20,000 opted out on the first day

Within a day of the three-month opt-out period beginning  20,000 Australians contacted My Health Record to have their personal medical details taken out of the system. Liberal backbencher Tim Wilson has called for the government’s My Health Record program to be an “opt-in” scheme, revealing he would be opting out of having his health data stored in the system.

Deputy Opposition Leader and former Labor health minister, Tanya Plibersek says she has opted into the online My Health Record scheme, but has concerns about the Turnbull government’s ability to protect patient privacy. Ms Plibersek presided over the development of what was then called e-Health.

“I’ve got an e-health record. I actually think it’s a fantastic project. It will really save lives over time.

AMA want medical records protected

The head of the Australian Medical Association has promised to do “whatever it takes” to ensure My Health Record is subject to the “same level” of protection as existing records in a bid to quell a rising backlash.

The AMA president, Tony Bartone, made the comments on Wednesday at the National Press Club in response to advice from the parliamentary library warning that police can access My Health Record without a warrant.

The My Health Record website has a lot of information about the system, how it works and the benefit it may provide for you and your family.

Listen: Dr Jo-Anne Manski-Nankervis & Dr Megan Prictor in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty.

Article supplied with thanks to Open House.

Anne is the producer of Open House – a weekly three-hour live talkback radio show exploring life, faith and Hope from a Christian perspective.