NeHTA rejects electronic health record fears

Despite the warning of healthcare professionals around consumers controlling the information in their e-health record, NeHTA will not alter the system's design

The National E-Health Transition Authority (NeHTA) will maintain its current design for personal e-health records despite acknowledging concerns that increased consumer control over health information could potentially result in poorer health outcomes for patients.

In its submission (PDF) to the Senate inquiry into the Federal Government’s Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records (PCEHR) Bill 2011, introduced in November, the body charged with the rollout of the PCEHR conceded that access to accurate clinical information was essential for healthcare professionals but said the system’s design would not be changed.

“Some medical professionals have raised concerns that if consumers are able to restrict access to information in their PCEHR, this will create clinical risk because healthcare providers will be basing their decisions on only part of the story,” the submission reads.

However, the submission argues that consumers already exercise control in the information they provide to different healthcare providers.

“The PCEHR is intended to increase the control that consumers have over their information, not to reduce it. Therefore, the option to withhold information in some circumstances remains in the design.

“It is important to note that the PCEHR will not change the current processes by which healthcare providers communicate directly with each other about a consumer’s healthcare.”

The health department released the draft legislation for the Bill in September following the release of the Concept of Operations document earlier that month.

In April, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners' e-health spokesperson, Dr Nathan Pinskier, said there needed to be more clarity around what information patients could choose not to include in their record.

“There needs to be some more clarity around what information sets consumers will be able to suppress or withhold, there is a model there and it’s been fairly well framed... but it still needs some work over the next three months and over the next 12 months,” he said. “The consent mechanisms and access mechanisms also still need further defining."

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) last year raised concerns that the legislation fails to address the availability of critical information for practitioners.

AMA president, Steve Hambleton, told Computerworld Australia that the ability for the patient to limit access to information would potentially affect doctors' confidence in patients' records.

“We need to make sure that when people do see the record they have confidence in it… the next provider needs to be confident that they are a reliable source,” Hambleton said.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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