The Australian Medical Association federal president Dr. Tony Bartone touted the success of the country’s electronic health record platform, My Health Record, during a speech for the National Press Club on Wednesday, but stressed the need for more patient data in those records.
While Dr. Bartone noted that almost all (90%) of Australians have an account, the number of participants is equaled in importance by the information contained in those records.
"At the moment, there's just not the information being shared between all parts of the system in a meaningful manner to allow utility (between doctors)," he said during a Q&A session at the National Press Club.
In an email interview with Healthcare IT News, AMA South Australia president Dr. Chris Moy explained the two biggest challenges so far in rolling out the platform have been related.
"The first has been too make a strong enough argument regarding benefits of My Health Record to individuals and to the community has a whole, while ensuring that they're confident about the privacy and security of their health information," he said.
He said the second challenge has been to convince enough health providers that there is enough clinical utility to be of benefit to them in their work, and that the system if functional or usable enough for them in their daily work.
"We hope this will improve when they now see that there is a critical mass of patients on the system," Dr. Moy said. "To some degree this has been a chicken and egg situation – but the main thing has been to get to critical mass."
In his speech, Dr. Bartone called the protection of personal medical data a "fundamental" concern, which Dr. Moy seconded.
"Beyond the fact that the system has security protections which as good as they can be, there are other protections such as an audit log, SMS notifications and significant penalties for misuse – and health care providers can only access it if they have the right credentials," he said.
In addition, he pointed out that the legal privacy provisions that apply to documents on the My Health Record appear to be stronger and those applied to data in current clinical systems, where the information is already residing because the record only contains copies of already existing documents.
"But the main protection for patients is that they have a choice – to restrict or remove documents, to put a pin on the record or to opt out," Dr. Moy noted.
He said the AMA is hoping for a "snowball effect" as health providers gain confidence in using the system – but more importantly, that they see the benefits in connecting to it.
"With pathology providers now uploading results to My Health Record, doctors can now check on results of a patient who is new to them or if that doctor does not know which lab the patient went to," Dr. Moy said. "But there is still a long way to go because the health system is big."
He noted particular areas where there needs to be work to connect providers are specialists, allied health, and aged care – with the last group considered a critical target.
"In all three of these cases the problem is either low use of clinical software or use of clinical software which does not link to My Health Record at this stage," he said. But again, the fact that 90% of community is now on My Health Record will hopefully spur a reason to connect."