Emergency doctor and epidemiologist Dr Andrew Jeremijenko explains why, this flu season, it is more important than ever that clinicians have access to up-to-date patient medical information.
Protect yourself ahead of flu season
April to October is Australia’s flu season and experts are predicting 2019 to be one of our worst years in the last decade. Three times as many people have already been diagnosed with influenza, commonly known as the flu, compared to the same period in other years.
With the virus estimated to cause around 4,000 deaths across the country this year, it is more important than ever for emergency clinicians to have access to real-time patient health information. But Dr Andrew Jeremijenko, emergency doctor at Mater Hospital in Brisbane, says people are often unaware of just how serious the flu can be.
“Emergency situations do occur because of the flu virus” he says. “We are already seeing an unusually high amount of cases this year. If you’re admitted to hospital during an emergency, you want doctors to make the best decisions about your care. My Health Record gives us the information we need so that you can focus on getting better.
“We can test for flu with a nasal or throat swab. There is a rapid test but for more accurate results takes 24-hours. Tamiflu, a medication to treat the flu, should be taken within 72 hours of the flu developing. If a patient has been brought in and they have had the flu vaccine, I wouldn’t prescribe Tamiflu straight away. If I see on their My Health Record they actually haven’t been vaccinated, and they have a flu-like illness, I can begin their treatment immediately.”
At risk Australians should be prepared
Recent figures show almost one in 10 people hospitalised with the infection in 2018 were admitted to intensive care. Those over the age of 65 or people with a chronic disease, such as asthma, are most at risk.
“I see a lot of patients over the age of 65, who are unable to recall if they’ve had the flu vaccination. Access to My Health Record enables me to find out quickly and accurately, which can help me make an informed decision about the best possible treatment,” Dr Jeremijenko says.
Even if someone is fit and healthy, vaccination is important to help protect those who are more vulnerable. Influenza is passed from person to person via droplets in the air when people cough, sneeze or talk. Healthy adults may be able to infect others the day before symptoms develop and even five to seven days after becoming sick.
“Everyone should have the flu jab to ensure they are protecting others who they might come into contact with,” Dr Jeremijenko says. “It is a highly contagious virus and one which can have severe consequences for those at high risk. This is even more important for healthcare professionals who have a responsibility to deliver care directly to individuals when they are at their most vulnerable.”
Dr Jeremijenko also believes this is where My Health Record can play a key role.
“Some people have a number of general practitioners who they see and previously it could be challenging to communicate among them. My Health Record enables communication to flow, ensuring all Australians can have a proactive conversation with their clinician about the flu vaccine. My Health Record allows doctors to see if the patients have had the vaccine or not, and if they fit the high risk groups they can strongly recommend the vaccine.”
“But this can only happen if they’re using the My Health Record system,” he adds.
Further information about the flu vaccine and the groups most at risk can be found in the Australian Immunisation Handbook.
If you’ve had a flu vaccination and can’t see it in your My Health Record, it might be that the healthcare provider is not connected. You can ask them if they plan to use it in future. Learn more about talking to your healthcare provider about My Health Record.
If your healthcare provider is connected, you can also ask them to include this information on the shared health summary in your My Health Record.