Accessing and sharing patient medical records is very inefficient in the Australian healthcare system. Pen and paper reporting, manual processing, digital scanning of paper reports and inaccessible electronic files lock patient information away and make it difficult to retrieve.
A Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) is a secure, electronic record of a person’s individual medical history, stored and shared in a network of connected systems. The PCEHR will bring key health information from a number of different systems together and present it in a single view.
Information in a PCEHR will be able to be accessed by the owners of that information and their authorised healthcare providers. With this information available to them, healthcare providers will be able to make better decisions about health and treatment advice. Over time individual people will be able to contribute to their own information and add to the recorded information stored in their personal PCEHR.
The PCEHR will not hold all the information held in their doctors records but will complement it by highlighting key information. In the future, as the PCEHR becomes more widely available, people will be able to access their own health information anytime they need it and from anywhere in Australia.
E-health, including PCEHR, will help prevent medication errors that cause an estimated 190,000 hospital admissions each year.
As part of the 2010/11 Federal Government budget over $466 million over two years have been made available to create a PCEHR for every Australian that wants one. A further $233.7 million was added to this in May 2012.
Pilot programs started to commence in 2011 some in conjunction with the rollout of the National Broadband Network. In April 2011 nine further implementation sites funded by over $55 million are set to commence that will enable patients to sign up for a PCEHR from July 2012 leading to the introduction of accessible e-health records.
This funding is intended to establish a secure system of personally controlled electronic health records that will provide patients will be able to allow individual health practitioners such as GPs, specialists and nurses to view their medical history. One of the aims is to provide faster diagnosis and reduce medication errors as the doctor will be able to see the patient’s medication history including any known allergies.
In June 2012 the Senate passed legislation necessary for the PCEHR to be instituted as part of Australia’s health system.
Progress has been disappointing with a possible review and relaunch needed to push it to the next level.