Doctors and patients shun $1.5b My Health Record
It's cost taxpayers $1.5 billion but the online My Health Record is at risk of becoming a white elephant, with barely more than one per cent of patients accessing it.
The record, which was created for any Australian who did not actively opt out last January, is also being ignored by doctors who don't trust it to be up to date.
The Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) reports there are now 1.6 billion medical documents on the records including blood test and scan results and medical histories.
But around half the records are merely empty shells - only 12.5 million of the 22.6 million records have any documents in them, the ADHA has revealed.
To be useful to patients, the My Health Record needs a shared health summary uploaded by a GP which outlines a patients key health conditions but less than one in 10 records include such information.
In the past year, just 356,530 Australians - only 1.5 per cent of the population with a record after the opt out period ended - accessed it, the ADHA told a Senate estimates committee.
The record started as an opt in system in July 2012 and in the seven years since then only 2.21 million records, or eight per cent, have been accessed by consumers.
Fewer than eight per cent of specialists are registered to use the record and the government admitted to a Senate estimates committee it has no way of knowing whether GPs or hospital emergency departments are using it during patient consultations.
The government claimed the record would save $14.6 billion by cutting the number of duplicate tests being ordered if doctors could view previous results on the My Health Record.
This money can only be saved if GPs, specialists and hospitals use the record.
There are nearly 90 million GP consults per year but in the last nine months GPs have viewed documents on the My Health Record only 200,000 times a month.
Royal Australian College of General practitioners president Dr Harry Nespolon admits he is not using the My Health Record.
While he has uploaded some patient health summaries as required by the government he has only once ever checked a patients My Health Record as part of a consultation and that was just to see how it worked.
GPs were not using the record during patient consultations because it was "not a complete record of a person's health", he said.
"It's weakness is its voluntary for GP's to put stuff up on the record, not all radiologists and pathology companies put stuff up and not all hospitals are putting up discharge summaries," he said.
"At the moment it is easier to get information from the primary source by ringing the radiology company and asking them what did the x-ray of (the patient show)," he said.
Diedre Mackehnie the co-chair of the Australian Patient Advocacy Alliance representing 15 million patients with a chronic illness said she hadn't accessed her My Health Record yet.
When she asked a doctor at a recent consultation if he would upload the reason for her visit he told her he would not routinely do so and would only do it if the patient asked.
The record had enormous potential "but to say it hasn't been rolled out well is an understatement", she said.
Australian Digital Health Agency said pharmacies are currently the biggest contributors to the system, uploading over four million documents every month with GPs also adding between two and three million documents every month.
To put this in context there were over seven million GP services per month and 17 million prescriptions dispensed per month in 2018-19.
ADHA chief operating officer Bettina McMahon told the Senate the agency was working to boost the number of medical specialists using the record.
News Corp reported earlier this year that four in 10 people have no way of using their My Health Record or checking whether the information on it is accurate or setting privacy controls.
To access the record you need to have a MyGov account but even though 23 million Australians have a My Health Record, only 15 million people have a MyGov account.