My Health Record: in or out?

The roll-out of My Health Record has created a media storm, with arguments for and against participation flying thick and fast.

You can be excused for being confused.

Let's go back to basics.

A record is created every time you go to a doctor, visit a specialist, have an X-ray or buy a prescription medication. This means that there are pieces of paper and digital documents about your interaction with the health system everywhere.

My Health Record sweeps all those records together. It centralises information.

During emergencies valuable time is saved performing tests and finding out information about someone's medical history. This is true in all cases, even where the patient has no significant historical or current medical issues. Not having medical issues is a valuable piece of information to treating health professionals.

The benefit is two-fold. The health system saves money. You potentially save your life or can recover more quickly.

The benefits are indisputable, but are they worth it?

The mass centralisation of information carries the risk that this information is hacked, or accessed when it doesn't need to be accessed.

The Australian health system currently hasn't got a great track record protecting patient information. During the second quarter of 2018 the private healthcare sector had the highest number of reportable data breaches: 49 out of 242 for all industries. That's an understated statistic, because public state-based hospitals don't report: they are exempt from the federal Privacy Act.

With such a poor record protecting patient information, My Health Record was always going to be difficult to sell to the public.

Whether or not you stay with My Health Record or opt out of it is a personal choice. If it doesn't worry you that your information might be hacked or inadvertently or inappropriately accessed, then you should consider staying in. If it does worry you, you should consider opting out.

What is certain, though, is that My Health Record only operates in Australia. If you travel overseas, it won't be available to doctors there.

It may be an idea to carry with you, in Australia and overseas, a Medicine Record Card. It is distributed by CPSA's Health Promotion Service for Older People and prompts you to list medical conditions, allergies and medications you use, as well as what you use them for. Ring CPSA on 1800 451 488 if you think it would be useful to you.

If you do want to participate in My Health Record you don't need to do anything.

If you don't want to participate in My Health Record, you need to opt out. The easiest way of doing that is online: https: myhealthrecord.gov.au or by ringing 1800 723 471.

You can opt out and opt back in at any time.