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Overhaul ‘clunky’ My Health Record, Medicare task force recommends

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A task force of healthcare leaders has given their recommendations to invigorate Australia’s primary healthcare, including the need to upgrade My Health Record and enable more health data sharing. 

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

The Australian government assembled the Strengthening Medicare Task Force to help identify the “most pressing investments needed in primary care.” It is focused on pointing out immediate actions to strengthen Medicare, the country’s universal healthcare scheme, and lay the foundations for longer-term reform and investment in the primary care system. Their recommendations also build on the government’s 10-year plan for primary care.

One of the task force’s major recommendations is to “modernise” MHR. Specifically, it wanted the sharing of health information default for private and public practitioners and services, as well as allow patients and care teams to use them at the point of care “to improve clinical decision-making and support personalised, safe, high quality, integrated care.”

Another recommendation is to have “robust” national governance and legislative frameworks, regulation of clinical software, and improved technology to better connect health data across the health system. 

The task force also suggested investing in better health data for research and evaluation of models of care and to support health system planning; helping boost the primary care IT infrastructure; and making it easier for the Australian people to “access, manage, understand and share” their own health information and find the right care through “strengthened” digital health literacy and navigation. 

WHY IT MATTERS

One of the task force’s visions of a primary care system is that data and digital technology are “better used to inform value-based care, safely share critical patient information to support better diagnosis and healthcare management, empower people to participate in their own healthcare, and drive insights for planning, resourcing and continuous quality improvement.” 

While there has been “great” progress made with the primary care sector’s adoption of technology during the pandemic, “it is important that momentum is not lost,” the task force’s report maintained. 

“Critical patient health information remains locked in siloed clinical information systems and cannot be shared easily across the health system and care settings. Even where information sharing is possible it is not always happening as often as it should be,” it noted.

Such issues, the task force said, must be addressed to prevent poor information flow to cause increased costs and worse patient outcomes. 

It also emphasised the need to continuously invest in IT infrastructure that “improves interoperability between systems, simplifies and streamlines data sharing and access, helps improve the security and resilience of the whole health system, and accelerates progress towards a consumer-driven health system.”

The federal government has set aside A$750 million ($520 million) for the Strengthening Medicare Fund to deliver “the highest priority investments in primary care.” 

THE LARGER TREND

Last week, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) released its position statement calling for a major reform in patient data protection. “With the rapid expansion of large international private technology companies into the healthcare space, the AMA wants to see adequate regulation to ensure patient privacy is paramount, and patient ownership of data is protected and enshrined in legislation,” President Professor Stephen Robson said. 

In an effort to lessen cybersecurity risks posed by systems connecting to and accessing the MHR, its operator, the Australian Digital Health Agency, is pushing new security requirements for software providers. From April, all MHR-connected clinical information systems will have to conform to the new security standards, which are aligned with the Australian Cyber Security Centre’s strategies for mitigating cybersecurity incidents. 

ON THE RECORD

In a press conference, Health Minister Mark Butler stressed that if MHR is going to be at the core of a connected digital health system, its functionality has to be improved. “Currently, it’s a pretty outdated, clunky, pdf format system that needs to be able to underpin a real-time, fully-integrated digital health system. So we recognise that the Commonwealth has the first responsibility to move here and to upgrade the nature of the [MHR],” he said.

He also emphasised that health professionals, particularly specialists and diagnostic imaging service providers, must be able to connect with MHR. “A patient goes to their doctor, talks about their conditions, and their tests are not available for the GP to look at and use as part of their diagnosis and treatment decisions – we’ve got to do better there.”

Source : Healthcare IT News

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