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Tom McMillan
17 October 2018
Tom McMillan

As a director of private physiotherapy clinics across a vast North Queensland region (including regional, rural and remote sites) I have accumulated an intimate knowledge of the challenges that distance creates for accessing and providing health services.

I can also see many opportunities where digital health solutions may assist with overcoming these challenges.

My clinical work is largely devoted to musculoskeletal physiotherapy in primary care private practice. In my practice, we see patients who have travelled a thousand kilometres to Brisbane or other tertiary hospital centres for specialist hospital care. These patients often arrive with little information about their admission and care needs.

My Health Record can help to provide us with key health information collated together in one place, and help to improve the quality and safety of our care.

In my practice, we used to spend a lot of clinical time chasing hospital discharge information and x-ray results from multiple sources, different contacts and with varying response times. Today, we can access this information in one place. North Queensland, where I practice, was part of the opt-out trials so most people living there already have a My Health Record. It's great that we can now spend more time on the care of our patients.

A patient of mine recently presented to me with multiple injuries after a motor vehicle accident. He had been taken by helicopter to the emergency department and stayed several nights in hospital. He had suffered a head injury which meant he had difficulty recalling his medical history, diagnoses or even the details of his injuries. As he had a My Health Record, I was able to access his hospital discharge record including medical imagery and other relevant results. Without a My Health Record, this process could have taken days or even weeks.

The information contained in this patient’s My Health Record meant I was able to accelerate his rehabilitation and return him to work in a safe manner in conjunction with other members of his treating medical team.

Chronic disease

Digital health has fantastic potential to reduce the growing burden of chronic diseases across Australia.

Chronic diseases like arthritis, asthma, back pain, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and mental health conditions are long lasting conditions with persistent effects. Almost one in four Australians (23%) have 2 or more chronic conditions and 50% have one chronic condition (Australia’s Health 2018, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare).

Digital health solutions can assist with supporting earlier detection, earlier intervention and enhanced management for patients with these conditions. Ultimately, digital health tools will support improvements in healthcare delivery so that in the future we may see patients with fewer symptoms, less pain and a better quality of life.

Nothing is more important than our health, and Australians deserve the highest standard of healthcare. My Health Record helps provide Australians and their team of healthcare providers with easier access to the information they need to help improve their health outcomes.

The more health data that accumulates in a patient’s My Health Record, the more valuable it will become. In the longer term, I expect My Health Record will become a critical source of information for health professionals when treating their patients.  

Privacy

When discussing My Health Record, I like to remind people that paper-based records have a history of being far more difficult to safely store and manage.

I have confidence in the safeguards provided by the My Health Record. We should remember that the legislation requires the information to be stored in Australia (not overseas) and that My Health Record provides patients with a safe, private and clinically effective tool.

The future

I believe the Australian Digital Health Agency is committed to physiotherapy and allied health being part of the My Health Record system and I look forward to including my clinical records as part of my patients’ My Health Record over the next few years.

I already consult with patients from across the world via telehealth and I have smartphone-based apps that allow me to monitor their exercise, pain levels and outcome measures from my consultation room. The potential for digital health is boundless.