Is My Health Record Safe?

my health record, health recordAlthough 15th October seems far away, you don’t have long to opt out of My Health Record. The idea behind the record is simple. All of your paper records will enter the digital world. The aim is to make it easier for clinicians to find information. Currently, every Australian will see their record transform into a digital format. You can opt out, but the deadline is October 15th. Opting out after this date is possible. But, the government can continue storing information they already hold until 30 years after your death.

There are lots of arguments for and against the My Health Record system. If you need a Mediband, or your child does, it’s worth knowing the arguments on both sides. Reading the arguments helps you to make an informed decision. Before you do, it’s worth knowing that you’ll still receive great medical care. In either case, you’ll find that a Mediband will compliment how you use healthcare in the future.

Arguments Against My Health Record: Data Input Errors and Privacy

my health record, health recordsLike all areas of IT, My Health Record could suffer at the hands of human error. During the first phase, the data is only as reliable as the person inputting it. Should they miss vital details, the risk of poor care is higher. For example, someone may miss data about your current medications.

Busy Clinicians Could Make Errors if Records are Wrong

If your My Health Record is incorrect, it could lead clinicians to make costly mistakes. One classic example is allergies. An analysis of electronic health records in 2017 found 5023 penicillin allergies. Some didn’t give a description of the patient’s reaction. Around 10-percent showed signs of an intolerance, not an allergy. In such situations, recording a bad reaction as an allergy could result in poor care. Patients may not access the best antibiotics.

At the dangerous end of the scale, patients allergic to penicillin may encounter it. Although most staff ask patients about allergies, there are some places where this is hard. For example, in trauma scenarios where the patient isn’t conscious. In such cases, relying on an incorrect health record could prove fatal.

It’s Difficult to Predict Whether Patient Information Will Remain Secret

Sometimes, you won’t want your record in the wrong hands. Certain diseases and conditions carry a stigma. Transferring such information may make patients feel uneasy. Also, some feel uneasy with marketing companies accessing care data. For example, marketing agencies could use them to target customers. It’s reasonable to feel as though this isn’t a fair use of data. You may feel it’s unfair for advertising teams to make money using your private details.

Those who support digital medical records may claim that current laws mean data will stay secret. However, an early report on data and its use states that the current system isn’t fit for purpose. In a nutshell, small tweaks to current laws won’t catch up with the explosion of data My Health Record will produce. It’s going to take a lot of effort to protect patient data.

Those Who Choose to Opt Out Can Enjoy Some of the Benefits That Come With Opting In

When My Health Record does send information accurately, it will serve a good purpose. But, you may feel strongly wanting clinicians to know the vital details and nothing more. For example, you don’t care who knows you use blood thinners. But, you don’t want them to know about your mental health. Some people may feel okay with marketing teams knowing such details. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone does.

Using a Mediband means that you still give yourself a safety net in certain situations. For example, if you do face an accident that leaves you in a coma and you use Warfarin, your Mediband will tell clinicians. In such emergency scenarios, they will see your band when they first check for injuries. Using Warfarin as an example again, this means they’ll perform a CT head faster than normal.

Some argue that depending on a Mediband medical alert bracelet in certain settings is safer than waiting for a digital record. As a quick visual cue, your band raises the alarm fast. In contrast, hospital workers could miss such details if they’re performing a quick scan of a computer record.

The Arguments For My Health Record: Informed Care Decisions, Safer Communication, and Better Confidentiality

my health record, health records, hospitalsMany of the arguments against the use of My Health Record are also relevant to the for camp. One example is accurate transfer of information. While there’s always a chance that someone will add poor data, it’s unlikely that this will happen regularly. As such, there are lots of areas where the accurate transfer of data could sharpen medical care in all settings.

In some areas of medicine, obtaining records is challenging. Making data access easier can reduce poor outcomes. Although you might worry about who could see your health record, there are many ways physical records pose problems.

Accurate Electronic Records Make Patient Care Easier

Producing accurate electronic records makes patient care easier for clinicians and those receiving treatment. For example, a doctor who sees children regularly will want to know about the mother’s pregnancy. Also, the birth, and any time the baby spent in hospital after is helpful. Such information is very important when treating young patients. Accessing it fast makes it easier to plan tests in advance.

At the other end of the age scale, patients fall into the Care of the Elderly (COTE) category. Those who suffer from memory loss could fail to deliver vital details. One common scenario is COTE patients who present with a fever that doesn’t have a clear origin. If their doctor knows that they have a heart valve and a poor oral health, they’ll use tests to exclude certain heart diseases. If they’re correct, they’ll deliver lifesaving care quickly.

Sometimes patients skip important details, through no fault of their own. For example, a person taking blood pressure medication may answer ‘no’ when a clinician asks if they have heart problems. They do so because their medication is controlling their blood pressure. In their mind, that means there aren’t any problems. Ideally, doctors will ask for a drug history and uncover this. My Health Record gives them the chance to shape their questions appropriately. Patients will then benefit from faster appointments and better care.

Safer Communication in Healthcare

There are certain areas of healthcare where patients can’t advocate for themselves. They include:

  • Paediatrics; Some children can’t communicate. Others don’t understand the importance of certain details. A few may withhold information on purpose.
  • COTE; Conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s prevent patients from offering the right information.
  • Psychiatry; Many people will share details of their past medical history. But, those with conditions such as paranoid personality disorders may become obstructive.
  • Trauma; When a patient is unconscious they can’t communicate.
  • Theatre; Surgeons will often have the most important information. But, lapses in communication become difficult to address after a general anaesthetic.

In each of the above areas, clinicians and their patients have the chance to overcome communication challenges. At the same time, each person who accesses the patient’s records has the chance to build on what’s there. For example, a paediatric nurse could find that her patient is allergic to Latex. In response, she can add relevant information to the record to make the child’s treatment safer in future.

It’s also worth noting that GPs may find it easier to treat patients. Using paper records means it takes a while for documents to reach GPs. In contrast, data moves instantly. As such, GPs can access details of their patient’s recent hospital visit straight away.

Sharpening Confidentiality Becomes Easier With My Health Record

Naturally, there are concerns about data mining. But, the use of electronic records overcomes the flaws paper records produce. For example, some hospitals and community care settings still rely on faxes to send details. If someone leaves the document in the machine, it’s open to the eyes of others. Also, there’s no guarantee that the recipient will be there to whisk the document away. The longer it sits in a machine, the higher the risk of exposing it to non-clinical staff.

Paper records are also open to abuse after ward rounds and handovers. During these periods, staff may carry lists with patient information. This includes their conditions and outstanding tests. Usually, clinical staff make an effort to dispose of such lists safely. But, there’s still a lot of scope for them falling into the wrong hands. If they don’t use the right bin, anybody can see patient details.

In contrast, My Health Record will require login data. As such, local health authorities can limit who can see records. Usually, this is on the basis of their job. Also, it’s possible to track who is looking at records. This lessens the chances of incorrect access. For example, a doctor or nurse could access them. However, cleaners and clerks can’t. Ideally, clinicians won’t take iPads and laptops away from their workplace. If so, it’s unlikely that prying eyes will access their contents. High-level security will prevent people from opening files remotely.

If You Choose Not to Opt Out, a Mediband Will Still Work To Your Advantage

You may wonder whether there’s a need to use your Mediband with My Health Record. At first, wearing one ensures that medical staff recognise your clinical state without all the data. Should you need to receive medical care abroad, your Mediband will act as a safety net. Why? It’ll fill the gaps despite your record’s absence. It’s also worth noting that those treating you in an out-of-hospital situation need the right details too. For example, passers-by and paramedics. Your Mediband will help them make the right choices.  If you present to hospital unconscious or  unable to advise your My Health Record details, your mediband medical alert bracelet will also keep you safe and secure, with medical personnel able to act on this information, quickly and accurately.

Whether the arguments for or against My Health Record sway your decision depends on what’s important to you. There are secrecy concerns and perks with either option. Accurate records will enhance medical care. It’ll also promote faster decisions. But, you won’t suffer without one if you wear the right type of Mediband highlighting. Before 15th October arrives, consider whether My Health Record comes with more benefits than risks. Then, make your decision.

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