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15 Aug 2016

Medical practices and private hospitals are lagging well behind patients in registering with the Federal Government’s My Health Record system.

Health Minister Sussan Ley has hailed figures showing almost four million people, roughly 17 per cent of all Australians now have a My Health Record after an average of 2200 a day joined the scheme last month.

Ms Ley said it meant that more and more patients and health professionals were able to gain immediate access to important health information online.

“This can improve co-ordinated care outcomes, reduce duplication and provide vital information in emergency situations,” the Minister said. “It also enables us, as a consumer, to become more active in managing your health and provide links between the multiple services many of us may need through our lives.”

But although the Government has, since May, threatened to withhold incentive payments from general practices that do not upload a minimum number of shared health summaries to the system, only a fraction have so far signed up.

Department of Health records show that, as at 31 July, 5647 practices had registered with My Health Record – around a sixth of those operating nationwide – while just 69 private hospitals and clinics had done so, less than a tenth.

The desultory uptake has underlined AMA warnings that the Government was rolling out a system that continued to have significant shortcomings and was providing insufficient support for GPs to use it.

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon said that although the association “strongly backed” the introduction of a national e-health record, the Government’s approach, particularly imposing financial penalties on practices unready or unable to use the system, was wrong.

Practices surveyed by the AMA estimated that if they could not meet the upload quota it would cost them up to $60,000 a year in lost PIP Digital Health Incentive payments, which Dr Gannon said was a severe financial blow, especially coming on top of the freeze of Medicare rebates.

“The extension of the rebate freeze has already pushed many practices to the financial brink, and the last thing they need is to have thousands of more ripped away from them because of a flawed process to introduce a national e-health record system,” he said.

The AMA has urged for a moratorium on the upload requirement until problems with the system are sorted out.

Dr Gannon warned that pushing ahead now put the support of the medical profession at risk.

The most common documents stored on the system so far have been to do with Medicare – almost 325 million benefits reports have been uploaded.

In addition, more than 3.2 million prescriptions and 1.1 million dispensing reports have been uploaded.

Almost 820,000 clinical documents have been filed with the system, including 462,000 discharge summaries, 228,000 shared health summaries, 86,000 event summaries, 21,518 specialist letters and 18,654 diagnostic imaging reports.

Patients themselves have uploaded 63,677 health summaries and 29,000 notes.

One of the benefits of My Health Record is as a repository of care preferences, and so far 10,632 Advance Care Directive Custodian reports have been uploaded, but only 285 Advance Care Planning documents.

Regarding organ donation, almost 406,000 Australian Organ Donor Register documents have been lodged with the system.

Adrian Rollins


Published: 15 Aug 2016