Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Report on Health Issue Group - June 2008

The Health Issues Group was held on Thursday 26 June. It was well attended and participants have provided us with useful comments to progress. The main topic for discussion was electronic health records.

Tony Greville, HCCA policy officer, reported on a workshop he attended with Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF).

The main issues participants raised regarding the electronic health record were:
  • content - What is included and how is it defined? What form will it take?
  • access - Who can read it? Who can add to it? What about people who do not have computer access?
  • ownership/security -Who owns the software and the content?

What does it include? There was preference for this to be a medication record including over the counter and complementary results of diagnostic tests, medical imaging, pathology results as well as discharge summaries.

There was agreement that electronic discharge summaries must contain information that is understandable, accurate and precise. It needs to include medication details, follow up appointments for consultations and tests and arrangements for community nurse visits as well as in home care and support.

Access issues

Many aspects of access were discussed. There was considerable variation in the degree of access individual consumers preferred. This emerged from discussion on information needs individual consumers identified. This ranged from viewing all entries in the record, to seeing a limited range such as summaries of test results, clinical notes and observations and medical record.

All participants agreed that consumers must be supported to interpret and understand the contents of the record.

The issue of health literacy is an important one. Participants shared experiences as they learned more about illnesses and conditions their health literacy improved. There was agreement that an electronic health record needs to have the capability in the system to increase the level of access to information as our health literacy improves.

There was discussion of the benefits of a health record termed a save my life health record. This would include summary of information critical to the consumer’s health including diseases (such as diabetes), blood type, allergies, and current medication.


Ownership and security of the information was perceived by participants as a major barrier to progressing electronic health records. Participant’s expressed concern about the security of information if it is held by companies who are driven by the market particularly that personal health information maybe sold to insurance companies. Participants expressed confidence that a government controlled system would overcome this.

There was support among participants for a pilot to operate in the ACT Health. The ACT community has the highest rate of broadband access. This could be an opt in system. HCCA will do some more work on this.

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