My Health Record expansion set to reduce pressure on hospitals
The government’s investment in expanding the My Health Record and shifting to an opt-out participation model by the end of 2018 will accelerate its benefits for clinicians and patients, says Meredith Makeham*, Chief Medical Adviser of the Australian Digital Health Agency.
The adoption of digital health services and technologies is a driver for transformational change in the way Australians approach their health and care. It has the potential to significantly improve patient health outcomes, improve the safety of our systems for people, and improve both the patient and clinician experience in their interactions with healthcare services. In hospital settings, we are seeing a revolution in the way health information is shared, stored and utilised, and My Health Record will play an increasingly big role in this transformation in the future.
Uptake of the My Health Record system among private and public hospitals is proceeding well and has seen a large increase over the past year. In Queensland every public hospital has now signed up to the scheme, while more than 90% of hospitals in NSW and the Northern Territory have also come on board. The number of people with access to the system has also grown substantially, with over 4.8 million Australians now having a My Health Record.
With significant investment and a commitment from the Australian Government to expand the My Health Record system by shifting to an ‘opt-out’ participation model, we expect that every Australian will have a My Health Record by the end of 2018, unless they choose not to have one. The benefits that this will bring in supporting a patient-centric approach and bridging some of our existing silos in the healthcare sector will deliver significant advantages to people around the country in their encounters with our hospital and other health systems.
The Australian Digital Health Agency is also working hard to ensure Australians will have a range of clinical documents and other sources of health information within their My Health Record to support their health and care needs, including community pharmacy records, hospital discharge summaries, and public and private pathology and diagnostic imaging results. In addition, the number of shared health summaries from GPs in the system is rapidly increasing, supported by the Practice Incentive Payments scheme for accredited general practices, with one in 10 My Health Records now having these included. A mobile gateway has also been added, which means that people can access their health information whenever and wherever they need it and on the same device that they use for health-related apps. There are also a number of features that allow people to put their own health information into the system, including advance care planning documents and consumer-entered health notes.
There are numerous benefits for people and health systems related to the My Health Record system, across areas such as access to information, improved safety and health outcomes, and cost savings. A number of these are likely to be realised as an effect of the sharing of pathology results and reports. Recently we have seen the commencement of uploads in two hospitals in NSW, and this will continue with private providers and other jurisdictions across the country. The My Health Record provides clinicians with the ability to view a patient’s existing investigations, reducing the need for the duplication of testing. It is estimated that sharing this type of test information electronically will reduce unnecessary test duplication by approximately 18%, resulting in substantial savings to be realised within the hospital sector.
The cost savings associated with the My Health Record system are also likely to result in reduced hospital admissions thanks to improved care coordination and fewer medication related errors. We know that there are approximately 230,000 hospital admissions every year due to adverse medication events that cost ‘the system’ as much as $1.2 billion. Capturing and sharing a patient’s medication history via My Health Record will help reduce these adverse medication events and help clinicians make informed decisions when faced with patients in emergency situations.
At the Australian Digital Health Agency, our vision for the future is a world-leading digital health capability that improves health outcomes for all Australians by supporting the efficient delivery of high-quality healthcare. There is a lot more work to do to continue to build and strengthen the system but, through ongoing consultation and co-design, we are excited about the potential of My Health Record to improve health outcomes and patient safety, as well as to reduce pressure on hospitals around the country.
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