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Budget 2017: My Health Record given AU$374m

The government has gifted My Health Record with AU$274 million over the next two years to continue and expand the e-health system.

The Australian government has announced that it will be providing AU$374.2 million over the next two years to both continue and expand its My Health Record System via the implementation of a national opt-out arrangement.

This includes AU$94 million in capital, with the government adding that the costs will be partially offset by AU$305.5 million over the next four years, including by delivering health system efficiencies when it is used by doctors, specialists, and hospitals.

My Health Record reached a milestone in August last year, claiming to have signed up over 4 million users to the automatic opt-in service.

Originally switched on in 2012, the Australian government's e-health record system has since been rebranded from the "personally controlled e-health record system" (PCEHR) to My Health Record.

Since its inception, the My Health Record has not been praised by all, with Dr Bernard Robertson-Dunn, who chairs the health committee of the Australian Privacy Foundation, calling the system a waste of money.

"It's cost AU$2 billion so far, it's costing over AU$400 million every year, but the government has never told us how it has improved health care or reduced health costs. All it is doing is putting patient data at risk," Robertson-Dunn said.

"They've built a glorified document management system. It's not really a health records system ... The data is contained mostly in PDFs, which are documents. It's difficult to search them."

In addition, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) in November revealed that last financial year, it received almost 100 My Health Record data breaches.

According to the Annual report of the Australian Information Commissioner's activities in relation to digital health 2015-16, 94 separate breaches affected a total of 103 healthcare recipients, 98 of whom had a My Health Record at the time of breach.

A 2013 review of the system by former Minister for Health Peter Dutton had suggested the system be made available to opt-out in order to improve signup numbers, and in September 2015 the government responded by introducing legislation that saw e-health accounts automatically assigned to patients.

Another digital health measure outlined in the 2017-18 Budget will see the government provide AU$18 million over four years for pathology collection centres, in part to enhance their data analytics capabilities.