In what may be the most comprehensive national effort of its kind, the Australian government has created more than 5.4 million electronic medical records and plans to offer EMRs to the country’s 24 million citizens by the end of 2018.
The records contain information about each individual’s serious illnesses, surgeries, prescribed medications, and family medical histories—information that can be critical to making correct diagnoses.
The ultimate objective of Australia’s “My Health Record” program, begun in 2015 and run by the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA), is to speed life-saving treatment to citizens anytime and anywhere they need it.
In a unique move designed to give citizens control of their own health records, each individual can choose which doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers can access his or her records. Approved healthcare professionals can then access those records anywhere with an internet connection using computers or smartphones.
“Australia will be one of the first countries in the world to provide a mobile health record to its entire population,” says ADHA CEO Tim Kelsey. “The project is being followed very closely by many other countries.”
To accelerate the initiative, the Australian government announced in May 2017 that it was moving the program from voluntary opt-in to voluntary opt-out. By the end of 2018, a My Health Record will be created for every Australian, unless an individual chooses not to have one.
Expanding My Health Record to help Australians and their clinicians securely share health information is just one of seven ADHA priorities. Another one is an effort to establish standards for sharing data across all public and private healthcare services in the country. Another will equip parents of newborn babies with digital tools to record their children’s immunization histories and developmental milestones.