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9 October 2018

As the digital health manager at Sydney’s North Primary Health Network, Eric Dunn has good reason to be excited about My Health Record. His role is focused on improving connections between different parts of the health system.

Eric has been working with digital systems since the late 90s and in digital health for the past five years. He oversees a number of programs enabling digital information to flow between health providers – including My Health Record. He knows the issues caused by gaps in the system and why it’s so important for health professionals to be able to connect the dots.

“A lot of people don’t seem to understand that they’re in control,” he says. “The system is mature – it’s been around for six years and there are already six million people in there.

“When I speak to consumers about My Health Record they usually assume they already have one or want to know why it’s taken so long to exist.”

Maintaining control

The biggest misconception people have is thinking My Health Record contains every piece of information about their medical history, such as the details of every GP visit. But that’s not actually the case.

“My Health Record is a summary of your most important medical information that another provider needs to know,” Eric says. “You get to agree what that summary is with your practitioner.”

He says it’s hugely important that Australians understand their relationship with their doctor won’t change, and they can keep information just between them and their primary healthcare provider if they choose to.

“It’s not an automatic process where everything gets added to it. It’s done in consultation with your GP, because they’re the centre of your primary care. And the same thing if you’re seeing a specialist – you can request that nothing gets added to My Health Record if it’s a sensitive subject.”

Checks and balances

This control also extends to access. Eric has been under the hood of My Health Record and understands just how the protections work. Health providers need a number of personal and organisational authorisations to gain access.

“There are checks and balances in the system so not just anybody can access it,” Eric says. “When someone does access it they need to be providing you with healthcare at that time. Access is also logged, so you can check access to your My Health Record whenever you want to.”

Care for all Australians

Eric isn’t just a supporter of My Health Record in theory. He and his family have already signed up.

“The greatest benefit of having My Health Record is that it can speak for you when you’re unable to for any reason. If you end up unconscious in hospital, and you’re allergic to something or on medication, the doctors can know straight away,” he says.

“If anything happens to me, everyone knows my wife has the power to act on my behalf. Also my daughter has a very rare disease. If she needs to go into hospital for any reason and we can’t speak for her, then our wishes about her care are in her My Health Record.”

Eric also sees the bigger picture, with My Health Record helping to helping health researchers and public health experts ensure patients receive evidence-based care and that future health investment is directed at those who need it most. 

“With proper data we can put programs in place that are going to make a difference,” Eric says. “My Health Record will help us to see how we can improve the Australian health system.”