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Making Health Better
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Doctor and patient with computer.

Northern Queensland PHN (Primary Health Network) has been selected as one of only two PHNs in Australia to trial the Federal Government’s “opt-out” new MyHealth Record from early 2016 for around 1 million Australians, as part of the planned $485m investment in eHealth.

Minister for Health Sussan Ley confirmed NQPHN and Nepean Blue Mountains PHN as the chosen organisations to deliver all-inclusive trials of the Government’s new MyHealth Record.

The Federal Government is redeveloping the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) system set up under the previous Labor Federal Government and introducing the new MyHealth Record system.

The new system – changed from opt-in to opt-out – will see Australians get easier access to their medical records and be at less risk under a revamped e-health system.

NQPHN Chairman Trent Twomey said gaining the opportunity to run the trial, which will begin in early 2016 and affect about 670,000 people in North Queensland, was a significant achievement for the region.

“It’s a great honour to be chosen as one of only two PHNs (along with Nepean Blue Mountains) in Australia to deliver this trial, and is great news for North Queensland residents,” said Mr Twomey.

“We feel that our membership, location and regional demographics make NQPHN an ideal trial site for the proposed changes to MyHealth Record.

“We are the fourth-largest PHN in terms of geographical size, and the rural and remote nature of our region reinforces the need for a functional electronic health system.

“It’s a huge opportunity to tangibly and meaningfully improve the connectedness of care for our community, especially in improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“We’re looking forward to play a key role in improving the flow of information, decreasing duplication, and helping doctors and pharmacists make more informed decisions that will lead to better patient outcomes.

“We’ll be establishing a quality improvement and practice support team specifically focusing on supporting GPs and pharmacists to utilise this new system.”

Mr Twomey said the new opt-out system can help patients get the right treatment faster, safer and easier.

“Health providers will be able to access a patient’s important health information together in one, easily accessible place,” he said.

“It will keep a patient’s latest health information, as well as important documents such as test results, prescriptions, appointment cards and medication summaries and treatment plans.

“For example, people with a chronic disease may receive care from many health professionals, and in some cases, it can be difficult to keep track of important health information.

“Doctors and nurses and other healthcare providers will not have to spend time searching for past treatment information.

“It will help ensure each patient gets the best treatment, wherever they are and whichever health provider they go and see.

“The new opt-out e-health system will help you share your health information with all your health service providers.”

Mr Twomey said there was enormous potential for a well-integrated, well-supported electronic health record to have a positive impact on the community’s interaction with the health system.

“At our recent consultation forums, we have received consistent feedback from GPs, pharmacists and primary health care providers that eHealth and improved electronic communication between community doctors, pharmacists and the hospital system is vital to improved patient outcomes and decreased duplication of tests and services,” said Mr Twomey.

“As a conduit between doctors, pharmacists and the hospital system, we feel we are ideally placed to trial the opt-out pilot.”

The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) said it welcomed the announcement that NQPHN’s region had been chosen as an opt-out trial site for the MyHealth Record.

ACRRM President Professor Lucie Walters said ACRRM was keen to leverage its experience in educating clinicians (both specialists and generalists) to use Telehealth, and to work with PHNs to support clinicians to use the MyHealth Record for the benefit of their patients.

“There has been major investment of public funds, and we have a duty to guide integration of eHealth into day-to-day care,” said Professor Walters.

“Nowhere is this more critical than in rural and remote, resource-poor areas where health outcomes are poorer than that in metropolitan and provincial areas.

“We congratulate NQPHN for working with the rural communities and clinicians in North Queensland to better understand the implementation of opt out arrangements on the meaningful use of MyHealth Record.”

George Tambassis, National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, said community pharmacies have always been early and conscientious adopters of beneficial technology for patients.

“I know pharmacy will get behind MyHealth Record and contribute to its success in the interests of better patient outcomes,” Mr Tambassis said.

“Given the strong involvement of community pharmacy in the Northern Queensland PHN, it is particularly pleasing that this vibrant and vital collaboration has been included in the early trials.”

Townsville Hospital and Health Board Chair Mr John Bearne said the opt-out e-health system was a great initiative for the NQPHN, which the Townsville HHS fully supports.

“Being able to support this new project and see it come to fruition right at our door-step will provide ongoing benefits to our north Queensland communities,” Mr Bearne said.