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Monica McInnes and her family live a transient life.
26 July 2018

Monica McInnes and her family live a transient life. They relocate often following her Australian Defence Force husband around the country – or else she is travelling on assignment for her next story as a freelance travel writer – but always with her two young children.

In the past 12 years the McInnes family has travelled to every state and territory in Australia either to live or visit. Most recently they relocated from tropical Darwin to the cold winters of Wagga Wagga in the south of New South Wales.

Monica and husband Adrian are grateful to have their children’s health records safe and secure in the digital world, especially with the health needs of their children.

“Our youngest son was born with one kidney, and while he will most certainly live a normal life, until he can start to tell us if something could be wrong, we need to monitor his kidney function regularly,” Monica said.

“Any unexplained temperature spikes can trigger anxiety for us as parents as he could be getting an infection in his kidney or bladder.

“On one occasion while travelling between Darwin and Alice Springs, we made an unexpected stop to the emergency department at Tennant Creek as his temperature was soaring. After some preliminary tests his kidney was given the all clear and we were on our way again,” she said.

But Monica wondered why she had to repeat all her son’s health details. As soon as she arrived in Wagga Wagga, she made a doctor’s appointment and asked for shared health summaries to be uploaded to the My Health Records for both her children as well as herself.

“It’s that initial peace of mind for me, having the kids health details – like that one son wears a hearing aid in one ear and has ottosclerosis, and the other only has the one kidney, as well as their recent medications and all their immunisations. It saves me remembering and repeating everything to every health professional we see,” Monica said.

“I’ve also been recently diagnosed with coeliac disease, so it’s critical all my health care providers – especially the pharmacist can see this allergy and double check my medications are gluten free.”

Monica’s list of health care professionals is lengthy, from audiologists and paediatric nephrologists for her children, to optometrists and dietitians for herself.

“As I’m sure is the case for most mothers, we are normally the keeper of all the kids health paperwork in their little hospital books, and I can’t wait to ditch the mountains of paperwork I seem to always cart to all our medical appointments,” she said.

“Plus it means my husband doesn’t need to remember past medical history for the kids when he takes them to appointments – he misses a lot of them due to the demands of his work.”

"For me balancing our health needs and care against any concerns around privacy and security was a no-brainer. Having individual and healthcare provider access to our important health information wins hands down.

“It's peace of mind that those records are available when required. It might mean a few less blood tests for my young sons, or me not paying for repeat ultrasounds, but most importantly, in a medical emergency I would hope having a record could mean getting the right care at the right time."

Having a My Health Record recently saved Monica from having to have another awkward procedure due to her recent interstate relocation.

“When my GP said that my blood test results showed I have a very high chance of being coeliac, she referred me to a gastroenterologist for a gastroscopy and a colonoscopy – thank goodness my colonoscopy results from a few months prior were right there in My Health Record – no one wants to go through that test more than necessary, I can tell you,” she said.

“I’m definitely encouraging all Defence families to start their My Health Record as soon as possible.

The benefits of having a health file that literally relocates with you are many – it saves money on repeat tests or having your old GP sending your paperwork to your new GP.

“I don’t have to remember where we were living when certain events happened, or how many ear infections they’ve had to see if you qualify for a referral to an ENT – it’s all there for any GP you’re seeing to view and help give you and your family the best health care possible.

“I can’t wait until all health professionals are on board and using the system. I already actively look for the providers who are using it.

“Just as it’s my husband’s job to serve and protect Australia, it’s my duty, as a mother, to give our children the best possible health care. Frequent relocations and changes to my children’s healthcare providers should not negatively impact on the care they receive. And that’s what the My Health Record does – it provides me with a tool to confidently manage my health and the health ofmy two boys,” Monica said.

Monica McInnes is a freelance travel writer and Communications Lead – My Health Record at the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network, Wagga Wagga.