Opt-out adopted for My Health Record
In news that will come as a surprise to no one, the state and territory health ministers, along with new federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and special guest NZ Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, met in Melbourne today for one of their regular COAG Health Council hoedowns and agreed to adopt the opt-out participation model for the My Health Record on a national scale.
Exactly when the move will be triggered is anyone's guess as the exercise will probably cost squillions, but there has long been a consensus among the powers that be that a critical mass must be reached if the thing is ever to be of use and it was always more than probable that opt-out would be given the go-ahead. Dr Coleman would have taken an interest in today's developments as they are planning a national EHR across the ditch as well.
Australia's health minister was given the power to pull the trigger on opt-out whenever he or she likes through the passage of a bill amending the PCEHR Act in 2015. Now it is just a question of when and how much. Funding for the current operation of the system will run out in 2018 and the department needs to take a new proposal to the government in time for the 2018-19 budget, but exactly how much extra will be needed to extend the system to another 20 million people is as yet unknown.
Our money is on sometime further down the track rather than next year, what with the budget black hole still lurking around and all.
The government is yet to release the evaluation report by Siggins Miller on the opt-out trials in the Blue Mountains and northern Queensland and that may inform the timing, but with early reports from last year that the opt-out rate was only 1.9 per cent, it was always likely that opt out was the way to go.
Those people still in the resistance army who hoped the whole thing would fall over will run around gnashing their teeth and the privacy crowd will be absolutely spitting chips, but the concept of a shared EHR has long had bi-partisan support and was never likely to go away. As always, the fundamental question is not whether the idea is good or bad but whether the system is of any use, to patients and to clinicians. That still remains to be seen.