explainer

Should you opt out of My Health Record? We asked two doctors to find out.

With just one day to go until the My Health Record opt-out window closes, the debate about concerns surrounding the service continues to rage on.

The My Health Record scheme is an online record of your health information held by the government and accessible anywhere, anytime by you and your healthcare providers.

It stores information, such as allergies, medicines you are taking, medical conditions you have been diagnosed with and pathology test results like blood tests.

Since the scheme was first announced, over a million Australians have chosen to opt out of the online service.

But with just a day to go until the opt-out window closes on January 31, some GPs are urging patients to consider opting out before it’s too late.

We spoke to two doctors to find out about the pros and cons of the new scheme.

What are the pros and cons of My Health Record?

For six years, the My Health Record scheme has been operating on an opt-in basis – meaning six million Australians are already on the record.

But on January 31, that changes: a record will be created, by default, for every single Australian who has not yet registered, unless they choose to opt-out before the deadline.

The new system comes with a number of pros and cons.

“The intended benefit is that it would give doctors better access to a patient’s health information, particularly as the patient moves between different providers and services,” GP and CEO of Qoctor Dr Aifric Boylan told Mamamia.

ADVERTISEMENT

“In theory this system could improve the continuity of care a patient receives and may prevent duplication of tests,” she added. “However, for the system to be truly useful and reliable, the information contained in the record would need to be complete, accurate and properly maintained.”

It’s also been argued that the system could help save lives in emergency situations.

“In a medical emergency, a doctor may be able to check your history, medications, allergies etc, even if you’re too unwell to tell them yourself. This may be particularly helpful for people with certain medical conditions where they can become unwell very suddenly, for example, anaphylaxis or Type 1 Diabetes,” Dr Boylan said.

On the other hand, however, concerns have arisen over the security of the data stored.

After all, storing health records online undoubtedly comes with a number of cyber security risks.

“The idea of having so much sensitive health data in one location is relatively new, and uncharted,” Dr Boylan said. “There have been ongoing questions in the public domain around what other organisations and third parties could gain access – legislation has been passed to protect the patient in this respect, but some people still have concerns.”

Your My Health Record is available to a wide range of health professionals, including doctors, physiotherapists, nurses and dentists. However, individuals can set controls on who can access their data and which types of data they are allowed to access.

ADVERTISEMENT

In case of an emergency, however, these restrictions can be removed by health professionals for up to five days to assist your treatment.

“If you have had an anti-depressant medication, or a medication that’s normally used for Herpes or if you’ve had a Mental Health Care plan from a psychologist, then that will all be on your My Health Record,” GP Dr Ginni Mansberg told Mamamia.

“Now, yes, you can put privacy checks in place and people can have to SMS you to access this but that’s a lot of information and people really need to think about that,” she added.

“My worry is about having an optometrist or a chiropractor being able to log into my file and see that there has been a tubal ligation or a termination of pregnancy or just anything to do with a gynaecologist.”

how to opt out of my health record
Your My Health Record is available to a wide range of health professionals. Image: Getty.

Should I opt out of My Health Record?

With all these pros and cons taken into account, we asked Dr Boylan and Dr Mansberg whether they believe patients should consider opting out of My Health Record.

"When my patients have asked my advice in clinic, I've gone through the potential pros and cons, but have suggested that ultimately it's a personal decision," Dr Boylan said.

"If they do not feel comfortable, they could consider opting out for now, and observing how things unfold for a while. There is also now a way to delete your record at any time if you wish."

ADVERTISEMENT

On the other hand, Dr Mansberg believes the need for the My Health Record depends on each individual's circumstances.

"I think that it would be really good for people with dementia and people who travel a lot with really complex medical issues," Dr Mansberg explained.

"It does depend. I’ve got patients with diabetes and heart disease that see multiple specialists, so for those people they really need it," she continued.

"But for people like me that are just sort of Average Joes, I don’t think it’s really going to help them. But for anyone that thinks over the last two years, there’s anything that has happened in their health that they don’t want people to see, I’d really think about it."

How do you opt out of My Health Record?

If you are happy to have a My Health Record created, one will be automatically created for you after January 31.

However, if you do not wish to have a record created for you, you must complete the online process on the My Health Record website by Thursday January 31.

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.

Alternatively, you can call 1800 723 471 to opt-out of the service.

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???