Ok, this whole thing is going to be rather controversial to some – but to the majority, it’s probably going to seem like a whole lot of “meh”.
From today, until October 15 every Australian has the ability to “opt out” of the new digital health record that’s being created for each and every one of us. This record will combine information from doctors, hospitals, clinics and pharmacies about our health and medical history.
Sounds ok right? NO WAY say the security pundits who perhaps wisely don’t trust the Government’s ability to lock down a database and computer system like this. There are quotes from people involved that they can’t make a blanket claim that there is no risk – because no security person in their right mind would ever make that claim, let alone a bureaucrat.
I’ve logged in today to “MyGov” pretty vacant scene there, “MyHealthRecord” shows sweet bugger all right now, but when it is populated it will show the medication I’ve been prescribed, it will show a bunch of visits to the doctor and even that one time I broke my arm on a “hoverboard”.
For the vast overwhelming majority of Aussies, it will be pretty lame and tame stuff like that.
Concerns over your privacy start when you’ve got something in that medical history that perhaps you don’t want the average Joe knowing? You have HIV? You had an abortion. Damn straight that’s private – but let’s be clear – this information isn’t being published on the web for Google to show in search results.
One could argue though that your HIV status is a very very important thing for any medical practitioner to know – so you would disclose this at any interaction with a doctor. So that alone isn’t a reason to opt out.
To Opt out you must believe that the MyHealth Record system will be “breached” by an external party – not someone at a doctor’s surgery – now let me be clear, this is a legitimate concern for any person with any digital data, but if you’re going to live your life looking over your shoulder at that – perhaps time to move to an Island somewhere?
We don’t trust the Government. It’s the hip and modern thing to do – and since the Australian Bureau of Statistics complete and utter Census stuff up, Aussies are right to think “wait, can I trust them”
But here’s the rub. The Census was a network failure, not a database failure. Your data was never accessed, touched, seen. The network failed and couldn’t handle the load at the time.
Think for a moment about the data the Government has on you. Your driving history – those speeding fines, maybe a DIU offence? Oh, your income details, investments, all that info the Tax Department has on you?
When was the last time that information was breached? And I’m sorry, but for 99.9% of people, the possibility that your driving record or income history could be published, accessed or even just used in employment negotiations would be far more troubling than the Digital Health records.
Here’s why MyHealth record is important. You’re in a car accident. You’re unconscious. Medical professionals can get immediate access to your health records, knowing what medication you are on, what you’re allergic to – this could save your life!
Perhaps you’re one of the vast majority of people who do not have a single doctor – you go to the nearest clinic, or the local bulk-billing practice because you’re going to lean on Medicare for this one? A bit easier for the doctor to get a sense of what might be up if they can also see that this has happened before and “did that medication work last time?”.
Doctors can make better decisions when they are fully informed. Why would you not want that?
The best advice I can give anyone today who is hearing all the reports about a new “Digital Health record” – is to be an active participant.
Login. Head to MyGov, sign up, do your thing. See what’s there.
Patients, that’s you and me, can log in and actually protect the information there so that it requires you to hand give access to that bulk-billing doctor you didn’t want to know about that thing you did last Summer.
And you can delete stuff too. If you went through a rough patch and don’t want those anti-depressants to define your every single medical appointment, delete it. But why would you not give access to the things that could impact on your everyday and emergency health-care – it makes no sense.
Be an active user of MyHealth Record – that’s far better advice than opting out altogether. And don’t accept the Census as the be all and end all of Government Digital Trust, let’s think ATO and Driving records among others before we go too far down that path.