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Clinical psychologist Jamie Marshall
23 July 2018

By Jamie Marshall

In my area of mental health, I have heard many stories from clients and their family members about gaps in communication between health professionals, particularly in cases of emergency.

My Health Record is an opportunity to reduce these gaps and to provide more effective healthcare.

In turn, My Health Record has the potential to improve health outcomes for individuals as a result of this improved information sharing. For example, an individual can add allergy information to their My Health Record and this may help to ensure medication is not prescribed and dispensed to a person if they are allergic to it.

The benefits to healthcare from improved communication are especially positive in the area of mental health when an individual has a complex presentation, and/or has a complex mix of medications. It means a reduced need for individuals to tell their entire “mental health story” again and again, which is a complaint I hear a lot as a clinical psychologist. The My Health Record provides a repository of accurate details to support clinical conversations.

As a clinical psychologist, I find the potential to access medications information within the My Health Record particularly useful for my clients in cases when they are not confident about what medications they are taking. This may assist me to make more informed hypotheses about a client’s presentation, especially if there is a chance that a particular medication is having a negative side effect.

As the amount of information in an individual’s My Health Record grows, it could provide more opportunity to improve that individual’s health outcomes.

A good example is where a patient with a complex mental illness has a psychotic episode while on an interstate trip.

Having a My Health Record could mean that when the patient presents in a hospital, she may not have to tell her complex story while not being well. Hospital staff could access enough information about her health history, including her medications, to provide assistance without relying on inaccurate information she may have provided to them in her psychotic state.

The staff could also access information regarding her diagnosis, and who to contact, all of which may be listed on her My Health Record

According to figures in Australia’s Health 2016 (page 105) about 45% of Australians aged 16-85 will experience a high prevalence mental disorder, such as depression, anxiety or a substance use disorder in their lifetime.

Looking towards the future

For babies born in the future, it will mean a complete health record covering their life span (for those babies whose parents and/or guardians don’t choose to opt out). It is very exciting from a health clinician’s perspective to have relevant information about a patient’s health to be available in one place. This will mean that I can spend less time chasing up information and more time on productively helping my clients.

In rural areas, we find that many health professionals come and go, and this can make it difficult for individuals to have continuity of care. My Health Record will potentially improve these clinicians’ knowledge and understanding of their patients / clients in rural areas in a way that does not currently exist.

My Health Record does not so much change the way I treat my clients, but it will certainly improve the way I exchange information with other health professionals, and therefore improve their overall care. It has the potential to save clinicians a great deal of time by not having to chase up information from other sources, and instead we can spend more time helping our patients / clients more productively.

As My Health Record grows and it becomes more commonplace for health professionals to upload health information about an individual, such individuals will have more confidence in their treating health professionals.

I see it as a valuable part of not just my own practice, but for all health practices going forward into the future.

As individuals learn to manage their electronic health records, practices that do not use My Health Record will find their patients / clients questioning why this is so.

The more Australians who have a My Health Record, the more clinically meaningful each record will be. It is an opportunity for individuals to take control of their health, and to be more involved in their healthcare.

For me, it’s all about communication and information, and this has to add up to more effective healthcare for individuals as the possibility of gaps in communication lessens.

Jamie Marshall is a Clinical Psychologist and Fellow of the Clinical College of the Australian Psychological Society. He works at a private rural practice in Inverell in North West NSW. His particular areas of interest include autism, anxiety, bipolar disorder, Workcover cases, and working with those who have a disability. He also works with Aboriginal people. Jamie is a Clinical Reference Lead with the Australian Digital Health Agency.