The government has officially launched the revamped national eHealth record but the move to trial an opt-out approach for the system has continued to draw criticism from privacy advocates.
The federal government on Friday officially launched ‘My Health Record’, which is the new, snappier name for the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR).
Late last year legislation implementing the recommendations of a review of the PCEHR, the Health Legislation Amendment (eHealth) Bill 2015, made its way through both houses of parliament.
Among the most significant changes in the legislation was the ability for the health minister to apply opt-out participation to particular areas, allowing the government to trial the new approach in order to boost uptake of the PCEHR.
(The legislation also renamed the PCEHR to My Health Record.)
The government in its 2015-16 budget included a $485 million injection of funds for eHealth.
The opt-out trials the government is conducting in New South Wales and Queensland will cover around 1 million people. Those trials alone will boost uptake of the eHealth record by some 40 per cent.
Some 360,000 people in the Nepean region of western Sydney and 700,000 people in north Queensland will be covered by the trial.
The official launch of ‘My Health Record’ is “a landmark turning point” for improving the health system, health minister Sussan Ley said in a statement.Read more: Report reveals scale of health record data breaches
“Doctors have indicated they’re much more likely to use the system if all their patients have a record,” the minister said.
“We also need full national coverage if we’re to cut down on inefficiencies created by not having one seamless records system, such as double ups with testing, prescriptions and other procedures.”
However, the Australian Privacy Foundation criticised the lack of detail in the announcement about how individuals could opt out of having a record created.
“There are many people who should be very careful about letting the government put lots of identifying information into a central database,” a statement from the APF said.
The eHealth record could be accessed by agencies not connected to healthcare, including police, ASIO, the Australian Taxation Office, and the immigration department, the APF said.
“The Turnbull government takes privacy very seriously and we have put in place the necessary protections to ensure the information in your My Health Record is as safe and secure as possible,” Ley said.
“Trialling the implementation of the new opt-out system is about reassuring the public they can have confidence in our new My Health Record.”
The government estimates that having all Australians signed up for My Health Record could potentially save 5000 lives a year and realise $7.6 billion in annual savings and efficiencies.