Australians have three months to opt out of the government’s online health record scheme, but the peak body for rural and remote health is warning regional residents that the ready access to their records could save their lives.
Last year, in response to low take-up rates, the Federal Government switched the My Health Record scheme from an opt-in to an opt-out scheme.
It is an online summary of key health information, including allergies, medicines, diagnosed medical conditions and pathology test results that individuals and healthcare providers can access.
National Rural Health Alliance chief executive Mark Diamond regional people face greater risks than urban residents and that e-health records are a vital healthcare tool.
“If you live outside a major city, you have less access to health services, and are more likely to delay getting medical treatment. That means you’re more likely to end up being hospitalised,” Mr Diamond said.
Country people are 25 per cent more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, 40pc more likely to die from diabetes and five times more likely to die from a road accident in remote areas.
“A My Health Record means that all your important health information is at the fingertips of your doctor, nurse or surgeon,” he said.
Regional people are more likely to end up in an emergency department from from a heart attack, car accident or diabetic coma, Mr Diamond said.
“If they’re unconscious, and the medical team doesn’t have access to their health history, the team may not be able to provide life saving care.
“Simply put, My Health Record can save lives."
Mr Diamond acknowledges recent reports of privacy risks associated with online health information.
“There is always a risk with online information. But the Alliance is satisfied that the Australian Digital Health Agency is using the most robust security measures to safeguard people’s health records, and the risk associated with My Health Record is small,” he said.