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An inside scoop on the government's 'My Health Record'

By: Stella Stanley - Contributing Editor
22 October, 2018

With the approval of all the top health bodies in Australia, My Health Record (MHR) is said to provide improvement in the medical care given to patients.

According to Dr Bartone Tony, the president of the Australian Medical Association, MHR is set to reduce reduplication of test, eliminate medication mistakes by providing health history of every patient and assist doctors during emergencies.

With the recent introduction of an electronic means of storing medical related data called
‘My Health Record’ by the Australian government, there seems to be a mixed state of euphoria and dysphoria about the advancement. This innovation involves the centralisation of the health data of every Australian in one singular database to make data more easily accessible. It would also give users – patients – the ability to control who can access their information to a large extent.

While it is a laudable feat, there are still a lot of concern about the  innovation. During the opt-out timeline which ended on 15 October having lasted about five months, the first day had 20,000 individuals opting out of the scheme with majority of them concerned about the privacy level of the MHR even though the Australian Medical Association are promising to do all the can to keep the system secure. As at now, about 6.46 million records are in the system, 5.9 million individuals already employ the use of the MHR. 3,273 pharmacists, 6,498 GPs and about 1,000 hospitals have made use of the system.

Dealing with privacy

However, privacy enthusiasts have raised an eyebrow at the safeguards kept in place saying that there is too much information being uploaded into the system, the storing and sharing of information is too simple and too free. Assuming a patient decides to delete their record, the information there would still be available for the next 30 years. More so, if one’s health record has been downloaded by a person, that person still has access to the information even after deleting the record. This system would only be regarded as perfect if information can be shared in a controlled manner.

This therefore calls for immediate attention as there is the need to redesign the system to include ‘a permanent delete feature’. More so, there should be the removal of the ‘download feature’ with the alternative of allowing medical practitioners to have access to the data online upon approval by the patient. This way, the data does not extend to the third party. Thus, keeping medical records safe as there would be no room for a patient to be held hostage by her health issues either now or in the future. Patients should be able to decide what information they want included in the MHR. The system can also implement the use of codes, given to the user to decide what information is to be shared and what not to be shared.

Centralisation

A cybersecurity expert, Holz Ralph, stated that the system is so vulnerable to attack because it is centralised i.e. all the data is in one place and governed by a group of people. This readily indicates that an attack is inevitable. Unfortunately, when there is a breach in the system, lost data cannot be recovered. While stolen data might be used against individuals, it can be used against the health system, holding them to ransom or tampering with the data which can lead to wrong diagnosis and treatments. The best bet is therefore to decentralise the system. How about the use of the blockchain technology?    

For more information: https://www.myhealthrecord.gov.au


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