Clock ticking to make a decision on your health
MORE than 430,000 residents in the Gold Coast health region have a day to prevent their medical records from being automatically uploaded into the controversial My Health Record system.
The records of over 6.4 million Australians of all ages have already been uploaded and shared with health providers, as the nation nears the health "D-Day'' on Thursday, when the expansion of the Federal Government's centralised digital medical records system begins in earnest. This includes 159,000 residents from the Gold Coast.
Department of Health data shows Gold Coast's 378 registered health providers uploaded another 2009 patient health records in December ahead of the January cut-off date.
Nationally just 215 Aged Care providers have registered as a provider under the scheme.
Patients can still opt out after the deadline on January 31, but their records may already have been shared to doctors.
Residents also have the option to re-register in the future.
Of the 591,448 residents in the Gold Coast Health network, more than 73 per cent of people have yet to be uploaded on to the system or have already opted out.
The health network with the highest upload rate was revealed to be North Queensland with 91 per cent of the population already on the system.
People aged 65 or over represent just 14.9 per cent of the total Gold Coast registrations so far.
Those in the young demographic, aged 19 or under and who might not have the ability to opt out, represent 33.7 per cent of the total local registrations.
A My Health record will be created for every Australian after Thursday.
The Australian Digital Health Agency would not comment on current opt-out figures, but a recent Senate Estimates hearing in October revealed numbers sat at 1.147 million.
A final reconciliation will be undertaken after the opt-out period ends on January 31, at which point the opt-out numbers will be known.
Australian Information Security Association chairman Damien Manuel said people weighing up whether to opt out had to think about potential release of their data.
"At the end of the day people have to come to terms with the fact at some point there will be a data breach and that might be all-encompassing," Mr Manuel said.
"There are about 9000 people in the health sector, from the hospital to the GP, who will have access to this information and everyone will have a different understanding of data protection.
"There certainly are benefits, but there is also a risk that needs to be considered.
"We would love to see more awareness and a behavioural change in the health sector on how information is handled."
Dr Chris Moy, Chair of the Ethics and Medico-legal Committee for the Australian Medical Association, said the association has always supported the notion of patient health information being accessible at the point of care- such as in emergencies.
"We continue to support health care providers having secure access to these important health care records. Understandably there have been concerns about people's privacy and because of this we initiated a lot of the recent changes to the legislation," Dr Moy said.
"The privacy protections are extremely strong - there is nothing quite like it in the world."
Dr Moy said the My Health Record system was a consolidation of copies of health documents and files for a patient already in existence, but now available for the first time at another time and place when a patient really needs it."
"It is important to have the debate over privacy but it is also important we consider how this information could be used to improve and save lives," Dr Moy said.
"The lack of shared information in the health community has been a huge unrecognised problem- and this was the Government's solution."
"I think the debate and legislative changes and debate have been examples of a healthy democracy in action."