Budget 2017: Government prepares for My Health Record expansion

The budget sets aside $374.2 million over two years, beginning in 2017-18, for the expansion of the national e-health record system as it moves to an opt-out participation model.

The COAG Health Council agreed to shift to an opt-out model in March, budget documents state.

“As part of our support for Medicare and medicines, we are investing $374.2 million in My Health Record which will allow individuals to access and control their own medical history and treatments – such as medical tests and vaccinations,” a statement from health minister Greg Hunt said.

“This follows unanimous support at COAG for a national roll-out of My Health Record with every Australian to receive a record, or opt out if they so choose.”

The government has also reached agreement with the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) on the changes to the e-health record system.

An evaluation of opt-out trials in Queensland and New South Wales concluded that an “opt-out approach to increase both individual and healthcare provider participation and use is the preferred option,” with opt-in approaches “unsustainable”.

The evaluation report, which was made public last week, said that among individuals and healthcare providers in the opt-out trial areas there was a “high level of support for the automatic creation of My Health Records”.

More than 970,000 records were created as part of the opt-out trials.

“The opt-out rates of individuals in opt-out trial sites was low (1.9%), which is in line with international experience with opt-out systems for electronic health records,” the report said.

Privacy advocates have previously criticised the idea of moving to an opt-out system.

Budget documents state that the cost of expanding the My Health Record system “will be partially offset, by $305.5 million over four years, including by delivering health system efficiencies through greater use of the My Health Record by general practitioners, specialists and hospitals, and by utilising uncommited health program funds.”

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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