Hunt takes the heat off the MyHR Hindenburg
It's not often that we admit that a politician has done a sensible thing but that is what Health Minister Greg Hunt did this week, announcing he would introduce an amendment to the My Health Record act to enshrine a requirement for a court order before allowing law enforcement officials to access the system.
This is already the policy and usual practice anyway and has been for six years, but the 2012 legislation does not makes this explicit. Now, it will. Added to the announcement on Thursday at the COAG Health Council meeting that the opt-out period would be extended by an extra month, and a unanimous agreement that the jurisdictions were committed to opt out, the decision already seems to have already taken the heat off the potential Hindenburg that opt-out was becoming.
We expect things will fly a little more smoothly now, although it's highly probable there will be some little flare-ups as the leviathan lumbers on. Shadow health minister Catherine King wants a halt to opt-out to solve some of the other problems with the system but we think this is a forlorn hope.
We also think a full reckoning on the debacle that was the first three weeks of opt out needs to be done, perhaps by the Department of Health, which seems to hold itself at arms' length from the digital health world these days. Then again, the actual launch of the system back in 2012 was a debacle too, and responsibility for that was all the department's. We fondly remember the good old Pecker days, when no one could register for a record online and no clinical software was conformant, so no data breach could happen as there was no actual data in the system. Them was the days …
Pulse+IT was in glorious Sydney for HIC this week, where we all had a good old grizzle over the shemozzle. ADHA chairman Jim Birch tried to made light of it, likening the whole experience to Alec Baldwin dressed as Donald Trump channeling Russell Crowe's famous “are you not entertained” scene from Gladiator.
That was amusing but less well received was the appearance of ADHA CEO Tim Kelsey the following day. Much of what he said was a repeat from his National Press Club address last month, which was a bit underwhelming to tell you the truth: here was an opportunity for a mea culpa, but all we got were platitudes. He also insisted that despite what some in the media were saying, there was a national paid advertising campaign underway. Apart from a few bus shelters, we have seen none of it.
That was a lowlight in what was otherwise a great conference in HISA's 25th year. We learned of progress with the National Children's Digital Health Collaborative, with the states and territories agreeing to harmonise the content in the jurisdictional baby books. We also heard an update to The Checkley Group's survey of EMR readiness around the country, with Bruce Pedersen estimating that the proportion of hospitals with a full EMR is about 56 per cent. Those worried that all of their hospital records are suddenly going to appear on the My Health Record might get a bit of a surprise when they learn half the country is still on paper.
There were also some terrific presentations by UC San Diego CIO Chris Longhurst and Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne CMIO Mike South on whether or not EMRs cause doctor burnout. There was also an update on progress with the Northern Territory's huge core clinical systems renewal project (CCSRP), which is set to be piloted at Katherine Hospital next October. We'll bring you both of those stories in the next week or so.
Sadly, the end of the week brought about a reminder that the security of health information should be paramount whether it be on paper or digital, when the ABC revealed that thousands of intimate medical and behavioural records had been founded abandoned at a NSW aged care facility. That these had been left in a derelict building shows not just a lack of care but an appalling lack respect for people whose dignity in their last years has now been soiled.
That brings us to our poll question for the week: Do you think changing the MyHR act will take the heat out of the debate?
Sign up to our weekend edition to vote or leave your thoughts below.
Our poll last week asked: Has the opt-out mess fatally damaged trust in My Health Record? Most said yes: 66 per cent to 34 per cent in the negative.