The Digital Health Evidence Review, released by the Australian Digital Health Agency, has found that Australia is one of the few countries that is leading the way in giving people personal control of their own electronic health records (EHR).
The international comparison of digital health record systems has shown that EHR consumers in Australia have a greater ability to control their digital health information than in countries with similar systems.
Out of the 50 countries surveyed, including France, the UK, the USA and New Zealand, the Digital Health Evidence Review found that only Australia and France allow individuals to edit or author parts of their health records.
The review also found that only 32 per cent of surveyed countries have legislation in place that allows individuals to request corrections to their data; and only 28 per cent have legislation that allows individuals to specify which healthcare providers can access their data.
In Australia, more than six million Australians already have a My Health Record and 13,956 healthcare professional organisations are connected. This includes general practices, hospitals, pharmacies, diagnostic imaging and pathology practices.
Australian Digital Health Agency Chief Medical Adviser Professor Meredith Makeham said with the Australian system, people have the most choice in how their medical information, such as their tests and scans, are stored and accessed from an international perspective.
“Although many countries have laws that allow users to view their health information, only Australia and a handful of other countries have laws that allow citizens to control who sees their information and request corrections to their own health data,” she said.
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Makeham also mentioned that the “important national conversations” currently occurring around EHR, for example, around privacy protections and overcoming barriers to data use, show that Australians expect strong safeguards, in addition to choice and control when it comes to their personal information.
“We need to continue to improve the system in consultation with the Australian community and their healthcare providers,” Makeham said.
According to Makeham, the information derived from the review can be used to support researchers, policy makers and the community in understanding the way personal health records can support better health outcomes and health system improvements.
The information can also be used to consider the necessary controls required to build trust in such a system.
“We need to understand the strength of the current evidence supporting the use of personal health records and where we see gaps in the evidence base. This is important to guide future efforts, working with the research community and others to build our knowledge and inform future digital health service development and investment,” she said.
University of Melbourne Professor of Primary Care Research and General Practitioner Jane Gunn agreed, adding that the development and ongoing review of clinical evidence will drive improvements in the digital health system.
“Sharing evidence about the way [EHR] and similar international personal health records are used will support clinicians in understanding the benefits of shared health data, [especially around informing] better care coordination for patients, and saving valuable time searching for information to make safe clinical decisions,” Gunn said.
The review drew on a variety of research sources, including academic peer-reviewed literature, government reports and white papers, World Health Organisation (WHO) data, and other information sourced from international governments and agencies responsible for the delivery of digital health services.