While more than 5.9 million Australians have already registered themselves for a My Health Record, just one day in to the Federal Government’s op-out period some 20,000 people declined to participate.
The rush to pull out of the Government’s digital database program even caused a glitch on the dedicated website on Monday, with several users reporting that technical errors prevented them from completing the opt-out process.
So why have people decided not to take part?
Let’s take a look.
What is My Health Record?
A My Health Record is an online summary of your health information that can be accessed anywhere, anytime by you and your healthcare providers.
It stores information, such as allergies, PBS medicines you are taking, medical conditions you have been diagnosed with and pathology test results like blood tests.
Supporters argue it’s a sorely needed feature that will help plug gaps in a fragmented health care system, and therefore improve patient care and even save lives.
My Health Record can help you keep track of your important health information all in one place. This year, you will get a #MyHealthRecord unless you tell us you don’t want one. Learn more: https://t.co/iCrBiXyJfi pic.twitter.com/UGHafYJDiC
— My Health Record (@MyHealthRec) July 16, 2018
Director of the Australian Medical Association, Tony Bartone, is among those in favour of My Heath Record: “It will assist in reducing unnecessary or duplicate tests, provide a full PBS medication history (thus helping avoid medication errors) and be of significant aid to doctors working in emergency situations,” he told The Guardian.
The scheme has actually been operating for six years on an opt-in basis. But this year, that changes. A My Health Record will be created by default for every Australian who has not yet registered, unless they choose to opt out.
So, why are people opting out of My Health Record?
The criticism of My Health Record largely centres around two issues:
The type of data stored.
As the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner notes, “The My Health Record system contains an online summary of a patient’s key health information; not a complete record of their clinical history.”
This is chiefly because patients can control what data is stored, either by changing their preferences or asking their doctor not to upload certain information.
Legal experts Katharine Kemp, Bruce Baer Arnold and David Vaile argued via The Conversation, “If, for example, a doctor were treating a child in an emergency, the doctor could not rely on an MHR to know what medications the child has been prescribed up to that date. In an emergency, an unreliable record is a distraction, not a help.”
The security of that data.
Storing health records digitally in a central location undoubtedly comes with cyber security risks. Critics argue that My Health Record could become a target for hackers and make users vulnerable to identity theft.
Your record is also available to a wide range of health professionals, including doctors, pharmacists, physiotherapists and nurses. And as Kemp, Arnold and Vaile note, it doesn’t record which individuals have logged in, only which organisation they belong to, which means it’s not possible to know precisely who has accessed your information.
Something people need to weigh up RE: My Health Record.
I was told by a surgeon I’d started talking to last week, that he’d found my personal details/test results on the hospital system. This is within 2 days of conversation on a dating app.
— ✍???? (@ellecia) July 16, 2018
It’s worth noting that individuals can set certain controls on who has access to their data and set restrictions on the types of data that will be included by altering their preferences via their MyGov account. Yet in case of an emergency all these MHR privacy restrictions can be removed by clinicians for a period of five days.
How do you opt out of My Health Record?
The Government has introduced a three-month opt-out period for those who do not wish to have a record created for them.
To opt out, you must complete the online process on the My Health Record website by 15 October 2018.
You will need to verify your identity, and provide personal details such as your name and date of birth, and must have your Medicare or DVA card and one form of identification (namely your driver licence, passport or ImmiCard) ready.
If you have children under the age of 18 listed on your Medicare card, you can also opt out on their behalf. Children over the age of 14 can also opt out independently.
While you can cancel your record (that is, close access to it) at any time after the October cut-off date, the Government will continue to store it until 30 years after your death.