Opt-out is now the only option
Either there's a big announcement of some sort in next week's budget or the Department of Health just moves at a glacial pace, but this week saw the belated release of the evaluation report on the opt-out trials of the My Health Record held last year, six months after it was submitted.
Unsurprisingly, the evaluation found in favour of opt-out, as did the vast majority of consumers and healthcare providers surveyed. Many consumers also thought it should be compulsory for providers to participate in the system – which would cause a mass revolt from doctors and is never going to happen – and they seemed to display far less concern over privacy and security than the privacy crowd pontificates about.
One finding that really stood out was that fewer than half of consumers surveyed remember receiving a letter telling them they were getting a record, with quite a few intimating that any letters they do receive from the government are promptly binned. Along with the letter-to-dead-people problem, this may be a hint that something more needs to be done to inform consumers about their opt-out options when the time comes. As the report shows, plenty of people have never heard of the thing.
This is an issue that we here at Pulse+IT have always thought was a blindingly obvious problem: there was never going to be good take-up of the system if the vast bulk of the population has never heard of it. Before the launch in 2012 and again before the election in 2013 there was a little bit of publicity but pretty much no marketing, and while this may have been part of the plan - back then the system was expected to start small and grow gradually - it has very much held back its progress over the last four years.
You can't flog a product if no one knows about it. You also can't force GPs to use the system if they get nothing out of it, which is a second blindingly obvious problem. Had the government offered an incentive of say $20 a pop for GPs to write a health summary for a percentage of their patients who would get the most out of it, such as those with common chronic illnesses and those over 65, the thing would have taken off like a rocket.
That neither of these basic things were done is testament to the litany of errors that has dogged the system from the get-go. However, while there are still major concerns about its functioning, even those most stridently opposed need to realise that the thing exists, that consumers seem to want it when they hear about it, that pretty much all sides of government are keen on it, and that it's not now going to go away.
We'll see what the release of the evaluation report in the week before the federal budget presages, if anything, but otherwise we are very confident that the government will be presented with a proposal by the department on how much a universal opt-out system will cost in time for the 2018-19 budget, and that opt-out will go live the following year. Like it or loathe it, it's here to stay. Best get on with it now, we think.
Last week's poll asked: Do you believe that telehealth can become business as usual before 2020? There are some positive people out there: 78 per cent said yes, 22 per cent no.