The federal government’s personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR) scheme will be renamed ‘myHealth Record’ and doctors will trial an opt-out model, as part of a $485 million plan announced on Sunday.
Health minister, Sussan Ley claimed the package ‘salvages Labor’s failed attempts to develop a national electronic medical records system.’
Less than 10 per cent of Australians are signed up to the PCEHR system, which is opt-in, with an independent review last year finding it was not a large enough sample to make it an effective national system or worth the time and effort for patients and doctors using it.
Transforming the system from an ‘opt-in to an opt-out’ for patients was a key recommendation of this review.
‘Doctors have indicated they’re much more likely to use the system if all their patients have a record,” said Ley.
“We also need full coverage if we are to cut down on inefficiencies created by not having one seamless records system, such as double-ups with testing, prescriptions, and other procedures.”
Ley claimed that a fully functioning national e-health system could save taxpayers $2.5 billion per year within a decade by reducing inefficiencies, with an additional $1.6 billion in annual savings also delivered to the states.
Ley said it was important that the government trialled the opt-out model to ensure public confidence in the system was maintained.
“The real problem with the sluggish uptake of the current e-health system is not the concept, but the previous Labor government’s trademark rushing of the rollout without thinking it though properly,” she said.
“It is important that all Australians are signed up to ensure we have a functioning system and trialling an opt-out model means we can do it carefully, methodically and ensure the appropriate protections are in place to give patients peace of mind.”
Clinicians participating in opt-out trials would receive hands-on training and follow-up support to build their confidence and understanding in using the system.
Meanwhile, the government will replace the National E-Health Transition Authority with the Australian Commission for eHealth from July 2016 in line with the recommendations of the independent review.
The PCEHR operations and associated governance arrangements will be the responsibility of this new commission with e-health policy functions to remain within the Department of Health.
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