Look I’m delighted to be here at the CBD Pharmacy with Jay the pharmacist and Jen and Michelle and (inaudible) who are behind the counter serving and all magnificently trained Australian pharmacists.
David Quilty from the Pharmacy Guild, Jane Jackson from the Pharmacy Society and the head of the Digital Health Agency Tim Kelsey, but perhaps most importantly, Robyn. Because Robyn is a patient who represents everything that we’re launching and trying to improve today.
Robyn is one of more than 200,000 Australians who were admitted to hospital in the last year because of a medication error. Essentially there was an error between the practice and the pharmacy in terms of the transmission of her script. That meant that she had the wrong medicine and that meant that she ended up in hospital. Fortunately she’s okay because we’ve got such a great health system.
However, the My Health Record can save lives and protect lives by reducing medication errors, by ensuring that there isn’t incompatibility between medication, by ensuring that we have compliance that patients keep up their medication because if you drop off your medication then it’s very, very clear from around Australia and around the world that can hurt patients.
So today we’re launching, in particular, a better medication, better hospital outcome health trial. It’s part of 15 new My Health Record trials and My Health Record is all about one very simple concept, giving every patient everywhere, access to all of their health record and history, giving better outcomes and better information on a secure basis to our medical professionals and ensuring that we have what I think will be not just the best health system in the world but the healthiest health environment in the world. And so, if we bring those three things together for Robyn and for all of our patients, that’s an incredibly important outcome.
The other thing I’ll say is that the My Health Record has the support of all of the states and territories, the Pharmacy Guild and the Society, the College of GPs, the AMA, different medical colleges and that's for a very simple reason. It's about saving lives and protecting lives.
We already have 5.9 million Australians on the record and we're very soon moving on 16 July and well-announced and well-telegraphed to a national opt-out period and by the end of the year Australia will be well placed to have the most secure but the most comprehensive lifetime database of any significant country in the world.
How are people responding to having their medical records online? Obviously people are sceptical about their safety and how are they being protected?
Well firstly Australians have embraced it, with 5.9 million Australians so far, and what that means is that people just want the simplicity and the security of their record being, you know, bank-level security arrangement, but where they can access it. Because so many people won't know what vaccinations they have, what medicines, what particular molecules and then the ability to see whether or not there's been an error or the ability to see whether or not there are any incompatible medicines. This is about reducing hospitalisations and increasing outcomes. So on security - Tim.
So the My Health Record has a number of privacy controls which give people real- the ability to determine who it is that sees their medical information and when they see it. Say, for example, people can put a record access control, a PIN number on their My Health Record and only people who have access to that PIN number are able to view those records. On the whole, of those roughly 5.9 million people who currently have a My Health Record, those access controls are not widely used because people do want their clinician to be able to see their medical information. For example, in the case of an emergency, people want to know that a treating physician does know the allergy they have to a particular medication, so they’re not misprescribed that medication.
So, who has access to it and can add to it? So obviously the person who has a record, pharmacies, doctors, who can add and see?
Well, look, I’ll just say only the person whose record is being considered has access to it. They can then share it but the beauty of it is every patient is in complete control with their own information. They can password protect it, they can keep it entirely for themselves, they can allow it to be shared with their doctor or their pharmacist or their hospital but there’s total control with the patient over who has access and how much they have access - Tim.
That's absolutely right. And for those clinicians who are able- been provided that access, there are a number of additional protections to mean that only the person treating the patient is provided access to the My Health Record.
So, with this new system, can a patient go into any pharmacy and have their records brought up so they can see what medications they're on?
Yeah, so, by the time we move to the opt-out registration towards the end of this year, almost all pharmacists in Australia will be connected to My Health Record and able to upload content into it, so that patients moving between pharmacies can be sure that their script information is visible to pharmacists looking after them.
Is it the end of a paper script? Do I still have to get a paper script from a doctor and take it to a pharmacy?
Well we’re moving to an electronic system. I think, Dave, you might want to add something on that. So we’ll have an electronics system which is optional, so people can either have paper or they can have electronic scripts. And in addition to that, of course, a pharmacist- or pharmacy such as this, Jay, you’re saying that you're in the middle of Sydney city, many people come from around Australia, they might be visiting as tourists or visiting family or on business, they walk in and if they choose they can then call up their health record and their medication record. David, on the electronic scripts.
So, that's absolutely right, Minister. There's a project which is underway where the Government’s working with prescribers and doctors as well as dispensers in pharmacists to transition to having the option of a digital script. It doesn't mean that the paper script alternative, which many Australians are very used to, won't continue but there will be in time the alternative option where you'll be able to have a digital script and not have to carry around the paper and still have a full choice in terms of which pharmacy you go to.
How long do you think that will take? I think many people will be happy to know they don’t have to hold on to that piece of paper.
That's due to happen over the next 18 months. The Government did announce a timetable in the recent Federal Budget. And the Government put forward funding to enable this to happen and is working very closely with us and others in the health system in terms of that transition. But there still will be the option of either having the paper or the alternative of a digital script.
Just to talk about today's actual announcements. Exactly how will it work? So, the doctor hands you a list of medications and the pharmacy can see it or?
Yeah. So what happens is there are 290 pharmacies with 5000 patients that are part of the first trial. And that means that you'll be able to call up if you're a patient, if you go to somebody who's part of the My Health Record network, and as Tim said, almost every pharmacy in Australia by the end of the year will be part of it.
You'll be able to call up, if you walk into Jay’s pharmacy here in the CBD and you're not from Sydney, your medication record you can see what it is and you can ensure that you're getting the correct medication. And if you're admitted to the emergency department of a hospital, they’ll be able to call up the record on your request and check.
You might have an allergy to penicillin and they'll know immediately that that patient shouldn’t get penicillin because they have an allergy. And that is absolutely the key into saving lives and protecting lives. Because once you've got that information, it's not just faster but it's much safer.