Australian government injects AU$485m into e-health records

The Australian government will force some patients to use electronic health records as part of a trial included in a AU$485 million 'rescue' package for the personally controlled e-health record system set up by the former Labor government.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Australian government has announced that it will inject AU$485 million into a "rebooted" personally controlled e-health record system (PCEHR), to be known as myHealth Record.

The funding, to be allocated in Tuesday's Budget, will see the rebranded myHealth Record system go through changes that the government has said are in response to feedback from clinicians. The government has not outlined specific changes, but rather stated that there will be a better alignment with clinical workflows in practices to ensure information including medications and adverse drug reactions can be easily identified by GPs.

Health Minister Sussan Ley said the billion-dollar PCEHR system set up by the former Labor government had seen less than one in 10 Australians sign up since the switch on in 2012.

A review commissioned by former Health Minister Peter Dutton in 2013 recommended that the system be made opt-out, so that unless patients objected to it, their health records would be added into the system.

While the government will be implementing the recommendations of the review, it will not immediately move to opt-out records, instead conducting a trial with a number of clinicians to ensure the system meets the requirements.

Ley said a health system where every Australian has their health records available would reduce inefficiencies.

"In this modern world, where technology makes information sharing boundless, there's no excuse for Australia not to have a functioning national e-health system, and that's what the Abbott government's revamped myHealth Record aims to achieve," Ley said in a statement.

"Doctors have indicated that they're much more likely to use the system if all their patients have a record. We also need full coverage if we're to cut down on inefficiencies created by not having one seamless records system, such as double ups with testing, prescriptions, and other procedures."

Ley claimed that a fully functioning national e-health record system could save taxpayers AU$2.5 billion per year within a decade, with an additional AU$1.6 billion per year savings for the states.

In July, the government will also shut down the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA), and replace it with the Australian Commission for eHealth. This commission will have responsibility for the operation of the health records, taking over from the Department of Health.

"These governance changes have been discussed with and are supported by states and territories, and will improve the accountability and transparency of arrangements," Ley said.

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