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Dr Caroline Yates
28 June 2018

By Dr Caroline Yates

Healthcare has been lagging in the digital environment – we can all already check our bank balances, log work hours and order goods securely online.

Not being able to accurately record medications, allergies and important medical history is detrimental to the effective delivery of healthcare.

My Health Record brings healthcare into the digital arena.

I am convinced that electronic storage and transfer of health records is essential to healthcare delivery in this day and age.

Although I am sure ongoing use will reveal further improvements are possible I strongly believe that every effort should be made to encourage clinicians to start using and embracing My Health Record.

The ability of a GP to curate and upload a succinct medical history for their patients to My Heath Record which is accessible by other healthcare providers and the capacity for other healthcare providers to advise GPs, in timely fashion, of important health events is especially useful.

I am uploading shared health summaries in the hope other clinicians find them useful.

Chronic disease

Chronic disease is now the norm in healthcare in the 21st century.

It is no longer the case that a patient presents to their local doctor with a problem which is dealt with there and then with healthcare not considered or required until the next issue arises.

Chronic disease means we manage and monitor conditions over years with many different healthcare providers contributing input and advice. Many different medications and investigations are required over the course of a lifetime. Keeping track of these different parameters in order to optimise patient outcomes is only possible using digital technologies.

According to Australia’s Health 2018 (page 96) in 2014-15, 50% of Australians reported having at least one of eight chronic diseases (arthritis, asthma, back pain and problems, cancer, cardiovascular disease (such as coronary heart disease and stroke), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes and mental health conditions (such as depression).

My Health Record in the future

Presently I am uploading more data than I am accessing. I think it will take some time, but the more patients and clinicians get used to using My Health Record and ensuring it is accurate, the more useful it will become.

I am spending time cleaning, checking and updating my practice records, since they form the basis of the information uploaded to the My Health Record. I am also spending time educating patients on how the My Health Record can help optimise their healthcare, how they can look at their record, and how to mention it when they attend specialists or allied healthcare providers.

I think My Health Record will be an essential tool allowing information – which currently may take days, weeks or even months to be disseminated to the relevant care providers – to be available at the point of care when it is needed. I suspect that in a few years we will look back and remember the “bad old days” when we could never be sure what medications a person had been started on in hospital, if they were up-to-date with their immunisations, or check whether they had already had an investigation performed.

It is exciting to think that with digital health I can improve healthcare to people who traditionally have poorer outcomes – those with complex conditions, patients with low health literacy, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds – because I have all the information needed to make a management plan in front of me.

General practitioner, Dr Caroline Yates, works in a general practice at Inala in Brisbane that specialises in chronic disease management and healthcare to marginalised Australians. She also does locum work in regional and remote areas. Dr Yates is also a consultant with the Primary Health Network, local hospitals and a Clinical Reference Lead with the Australian Digital Health Agency.