The benefits of an online health record

Source: Flickr / AMISOM Public Information (CC0 1.0)

Navigating the Australian health system, understanding what the doctors say and remembering all the information they give you can be confusing, even if you grew up in Australia. And if you're new to the country it's even harder. But there’s an online tool called My Health Record that can make your life much easier.

We’ve all been there, coming back from a doctor’s appointment, trying to remember exactly what they said or going into an appointment struggling to explain to a specialist what another doctor has told us. My Health Record has been created to help you in these kinds of situations. It’s an online summary of your health information. Dr Monica Trujillo, from the Australian Digital Health Agency, explains that you have access to your record at all time.

My Health Record is an online summary of your health information.

“This is almost like a safety network. All the information is in there and you can actually go afterwards and have a look at it. We know that when you go and see your GP, when you go to see a doctor, it’s quite daunting so you only take in about 30% of the information in your head with you. So having access to information is quite empowering for consumers.” 

Doctors will upload health summaries, event summaries and copies of prescriptions in your record, while you’ll be able to edit your information and add notes. To use My Health Record, you need to have a Medicare card and register.

“There are different ways to register. You can go online, there’s a My Health Record website, which you can go on and register. There’s also by phone. Or there’s also an assisted registration module with your local GP so if you have a local GP that’s well-known to you, you can do an assisted registration process with them.” 

You get to set up the privacy settings yourself so you can decide which doctors have access to your documents and what documents are available to whom. You can also get notified when somebody accesses your information. Another interesting feature is that you can nominate people, like family members, to access your record.

To use My Health Record, you need to have a Medicare card and register.

“I’m a migrant myself. My parents are Spanish-speaking so they can put me as a carer and after their visit to the GP or anywhere, we can talk through the documents together. Any consumer can access and edit their information, but they can also nominate who they want to access this information so it’s a community of care.” 

Parents can also register their children so their health information is all in one place. 

"For example, for me, I've got access to my record and my two children. So in there, it's information about immunisation, which when you're moving from place to place, and as I said, being a migrant myself, you always lose that information, it's so difficult. Having that in there, it's so important because you can access it, you can have control over it and you can actually access all the information regardless of where you are, where you come from or where you're going to." 

Sue Elderton is the National Policy Manager at Carers Australia. She believes that My Health Record is a great tool for new Australians.

"For people coming to Australia, especially if English is not their first language and they're struggling with it, really the magic of a health record is that it's there and it's available to the health professionals you deal with, whether they're general practitioners, specialists or in hospitals or I think allied health workers as well so you don't have to remember all the details. You don't have to remember all the complicated medical terms because that information can be accessed by those professionals, on the spot."

Parents can also register their children so their health information is all in one place.

Herself and her family use My Health Record and are especially thankful for the system during emergencies. 

"In the case of my son, he's an epileptic, he's had epilepsy for a very long time. After a seizure, it's very difficult for you to remember anything. So again, if you're being attended on by medical people, ambulance people, it's very difficult to describe to them what happened to you, let alone some of the other information that's required once you get in the hospital." 

In these situations, stress levels are high, but you need to remember a lot of details. 

"What level of medication are you on, what is it, when did you last have a major seizure like this, what were your injuries if you had injuries. And similarly, I've been in situations where, as his carer, I'm panicking on his behalf and I lose my capacity to remember all the details that I could answer if he can’t do that. And I don't have to, if the health record is there."

By the end of 2018, the government will create a My Health Record for every Australian. If you don’t want one, you’ll need to opt out.

In these cases where carers have to speak out for the person they're taking care of, having a digital record of their health information is crucial.

"It's very hard for people to remember the details of their own health; recent tests, what prescriptions they're on, injuries, all that sort of things, let alone if you're doing that on behalf of another person as a carer would."

It also means that if the carer is unavailable and somebody else has to take over, all the information is there so people will receive the care they need right away.

To register go to their website My Health Record. You can also call 1800 723 471 or talk directly to your GP. By the end of 2018, the government will create a My Health Record for every Australian. If you don’t want one, you’ll need to opt out. To know when to opt out, you can register to get an email on the My Health Record website. For Translating and Interpreting Services call 13 14 50.

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