Australia plans to create an online digital health record—My Health Record—for every single citizen by the end of 2018 for seamless coordination of medical treatment. However, the government will have to address numerous privacy and security concerns before encouraging wide adoption of the technology, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
My Health Record is a digital online platform that stores critical health information of patients registered in the system. These records can be shared across multiple health providers for seamless coordination of medical treatment. This is expected to improve quality of healthcare and reduce expenditure.
David Brown, Medical Device Analyst at GlobalData, says: “The immediate benefits of registering all citizens in a centralized health database are numerous. Healthcare providers will have access to a patient’s health status and current medications and sensitivities, which will allow for a high level of care that is directly tailored to the needs of an individual patient.”
Currently there are over six million individuals registered in the system and by the end of this year the government plans to create a health record for every single citizen. However, despite the obvious benefits of a centralized healthcare database, there are some serious downsides that come along with centralized and digital hubs of personal information.
Brown continues: “Some of the more prominent privacy concerns involve third-party access to Australian patient health information, such as law enforcement and commercial entities such as insurance and pharmaceutical companies.”
The My Health Record website maintains that law enforcement will not be granted health record access without a court order and that third-party access will be restricted to bodies involved in policy, planning and research purposes only.
Besides privacy issues, cybersecurity remains a large problem. Recently, several health platforms such as the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Singapore’s SingHealth platform have suffered data breaches.
Brown concludes: “Cybersecurity is an increasing problem in today’s digital world. If Australia wants to combat this growing problem to reap the rewards of centralized digital health, it will have to take these threats very seriously. Australians have until November 15 to opt out of the system if they do not wish to have a digital health record created. Current opt-outs sit at just over one million individuals, which is far below what the government expected. It will be important to see if Australians embrace the benefits of digital healthcare, or if the fear of personal data privacy breaches diminishes widespread adoption of this technology.”
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