The Federal Government will appoint a nurse to the board overseeing the roll out of the My Health Record after the Australian College of Nursing claimed the profession’s omission from the table was “unconscionable” and symbolic of the exclusion of nurses from high-level decision-making in healthcare.

The Australian Digital Health Agency’s board was appointed by the then Federal Minister for Health, Sussan Ley, in April 2016, with no representation from nursing. But that oversight could soon be rectified.

“The process to appoint a representative from the nursing sector to the board is underway,” a spokesperson for Minister for Health Greg Hunt told Healthcare IT News Australia.

 “The minister has requested that process occur to facilitate their engagement and has encouraged the Digital Health Agency work with the nursing sector.”

The move follows outrage at the omission from within the nursing sector.

“There’s several doctors and no nurse. So this is really symbolic of what we're seeing time and time again,” Australian College of Nursing CEO Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward said.

“For the reform that is required for the future to take place and to be effective, it is unconscionable to think that a nurse wouldn’t sit at that highest level at the table.”

The board also contains the head of a private health insurance fund, the CEO of a large financial institution, a consumer advocate and other senior healthcare experts.

In April this year, Ward recommended two nursing informatics experts to the minister as candidates for a possible addition to the board.

While optimistic about Hunt’s new undertaking, Ward said nurses remain in the dark and question the delay in what should be a priority appointment.

“We haven’t been told no or yes and we have had no further inquiry since sending the names, so whilst we are hopeful and pleased it is underway we would like to see a nurse added to the board as a priority,” she said.

Nurses are at the forefront of patient care, have been leaders in the digital reform of healthcare, and their system-wide expertise allows them to provide insights into the development, implementation and maintenance of the My Health Record, Ward said.

“What is it going to take for us to move away from these traditional and paternalistic ways of doing business? We need to understand who is providing the care. Nurses are highly educated, highly regarded [and] incredibly knowledgeable. They’re more than 50 per cent of the workforce so to not have the expertise at the table just seems lacking.”

According to Ward, board-level nurse involvement could have saved money and time during what has been “a long and frustrating journey” in the development of the national EHR.

“It’s taken us since the turn of the century to get to this point with the My Health Record. There’s been millions of dollars wasted and significant delay in getting to a stage where we have five million in the uptake — and that in itself says to me nurses should have been at the table a long time ago.”

The nursing profession, which last month was voted the most trusted and ethical for the 23rd time, can also play a pivotal role in building consumer confidence in the national opt-out implementation.

“For a nurse to sit with our patients and have the discussion and encourage the use of the My Health Record, that gives the community a strong sense of peace of mind that if a nurse is advocating it must be a good thing,” Ward said.

Nurses are currently contributing to the development of the My Health Record as part of the ADHA’s consultation process.