De-Mystifying My Health Record
Written by Dr Niamh O’Reilly

De-Mystifying My Health Record

My Health Record (MHR) is a new secure online summary of consenting individuals’ health information, enabling centralised storage of health documents such as hospital discharge summaries, pathology reports, prescription documents, organ donor registration details and Medicare documents (1). While there are many benefits to implementing MHR, there are also concerns around the secondary use of data, as well as cybersecurity, data errors, risks to patient safety and medico-legal implications for healthcare providers (HCPs).

Aligned with the increasing focus on patient centricity among pharmaceutical and medical device companies, there is a need to access better patient data and develop an improved understanding of the patient journey. In this brave new digital age, electronic health records provide a rich data source of insights about the impact of treatments on patient outcomes. However, there is a disparity between the perception of big data as the ‘holy grail’ for insights and an apparent lack of confidence among consumers and HCPs in committing their information to MHR, given recent public debate.

Benefits of My Health Record

The age of digital healthcare is upon us and many countries have implemented centralised electronic health records systems, similar to MHR, to integrate health data from multiple sources that is accessible by relevant stakeholders. Peak health bodies including the Australian Medical Association, the Royal College of Australian GPs and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia are in support of MHR for its potential to positively impact patient care and support practitioners (2). Australia has approximately 230,000 medication misadventures a year costing the healthcare system $1.2 billion (3). It is hoped that one of the many advantages of implementing the MHR system in Australia will be a reduction in these costly, often preventable adverse drug events.

The intention is that each individual’s record will eventually be populated with data that provides a complete digital health record in one place that is accessible to all relevant HCPs. With more work, the system should provide timely access to health information which saves vital time in emergencies and allows for more time spent treating patients. Enabling doctors to see a range of clinical, prescription and health information about a patient should reduce medication errors, as well as unnecessary duplication of pathology and imaging tests (4). Community pharmacists will also benefit through access to clinical information in a shared health summary which is useful for performing MedsChecks and Home Medication Reviews (4).

Data Security, Misuse and Medico-legal Concerns

The perceived benefits of the MHR system have been largely overshadowed in the media by concerns around data security and misuse of data. To ease concerns around data privacy, the Australian Parliament introduced amendments to prohibit insurers and employers from accessing records. Only certain government agencies can access records including the Australian Digital Health Agency, the Department of Health and Medicare. Additionally, law enforcement authorities require a court document to access information, all access to the system will be logged and heavy penalties will be imposed on those who access information illegally.

Despite these safeguards, vulnerable communities including those with mental health issues, people with HIV and victims of abuse or domestic violence remain unconvinced that their data will remain secure. The issue of accountability for medical errors caused by incomplete or incorrect data also remains unresolved. Good medical practice relies on accurate information, and in situations where multiple people can enter and edit data the potential for error increases. GPs have raised concerns about the medico-legal implications in situations where treatment decisions based on incomplete or inaccurate information cause harm to a patient (5). Uncertainty remains around medical indemnity, malpractice liability and what recourse is available to patients if mistakes are made.

Nevertheless, My Health Record, is a reality and so it is hoped that the various concerns raised can be resolved over time.


CRCs experienced Medical Affairs team has the expertise to understand and utilise digital healthcare data for the purpose of demonstrating therapy value and supporting Medical Affairs related projects.



  1. What is My Health Record? Australian Digital Health Agency. Accesses 30th January 2019. Available at: https://bit.ly/2B5N3On
  2. Zhou N. My Health Record: privacy, cybersecurity and the hacking risk. 2018. The Guardian. Available at: https://bit.ly/2Ldk8hW
  3. My Health Record can help prevent medication misadventures. Australian Digital Health Agency. Available at: https://bit.ly/2HKiUtM
  4. Margo J., My Health Record: the benefits and risks explained. 2018. Australian Financial Review. Available at: https://bit.ly/2CUn0Ns
  5. GPs raise fresh concerns about the legal risks of My Health Record. 2019. ABC Radio Interview with Dr Kerryn Phelps. Accesses 31st January 2019. Available at: https://ab.co/2SiGvpA