2.5m Australians sign up for eHealth records

The national eHealth records system had 2,442,824 individuals signed up as of midnight on 20 October, the Department of Health has revealed.

Bettina Konti, first assistant secretary for the department's eHealth division, revealed the figures during a Senate Estimates hearing last week.

At the end of May, around 2.24m Australians had signed up for to the national Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) system.

Some 7975 healthcare provider organisations and 11,010 individual healthcare providers have registered to be part of the PCEHR system, Kionti revealed at the hearing. About 80 per cent of GP practices have signed up.

The federal government is seeking to boost PCEHR uptake. In September it unveiled a bill that will implement recommendations from the 2013 PCEHR review, including ditching PCEHR in favour of the name 'My Health Record'.

The Health Legislation Amendment (eHealth) Bill 2015 will also allow trials of an 'opt out' approach to the system. Shifting to opt-out eHealth records to boost uptake was a key recommendation of the PCEHR review. However, the move has raised concerns.

A report issued in October by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights said the committee would seek more evidence from the health minister about a number of provisions in the proposed legislation, including the opt-out provisions.

Konti told the Estimates hearing that the department would be conducting up to six trials of different participation arrangements for the system, with two to four of those based around an opt-out approach.

The trials are expected to cost $26.4 million in 2015-16 and $15.5 million 2016-17.

"[W]ithin the trials and participation arrangements there is provision to trial opt-out participation as well as innovative approaches to opt-in participation or participation as part of the current opt-in system," Konti said.

The department has received proposals from the states and territories about possible locations for the opt-out trials.

"For the opt-ins, we will be inviting primary health networks to submit proposals in their terms on the ways they might inspire healthcare providers and consumers or individuals to get involved in registering and using the record and for doctors and healthcare providers across the whole health setting engaged in that," said Paul Madden, a special adviser to the department.

"In the past we have [had] assisted registration, where we have had people do that on our behalf and we are looking at what the primary health networks might do to get assisted registration to happen at point of admission or point of first consultation with the GP, clinic or specialist and all of those things."

Education campaigns ahead of the opt-out trials will begin in February-March next year. The trials will run from July through October and an independent evaluator will be engaged to assess the outcomes.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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