Electronic patient files for everybody: Digitization in the healthcare sector Down Under

What is still being discussed in Germany has already become reality in Australia: the electronic patient file.

The Commonwealth government introduces the use of electronic patient files via the nationally controlled platform “MyHealth”, enabling all Australians to manage their patient data online by 2018 at the latest. From X-rays to laboratory data, CT scans, doctors’ letters and vaccination appointments – all this information will then be stored digitally. As in other projects around the world, patients are in control of all their data and can decide by themselves whom they want to give access to it.

One of the reasons why the Australian government has invested more than 10 billion euros in this project in recent years is that in Down Under, the sixth largest country in the world, there are only 3 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants, and they have to travel enormous distances from their homes to provide medical care. In so-called emergency care centres, doctors and nurses take care of medical emergencies 24/7, which are sent to them by telemedicine from distant regions. Experienced doctors can view incoming laboratory values or even x-rays and thus give advice to medical staff and also to the patient on site on what to do. In severe cases, a rescue team is dispatched by helicopter or small plane to the scene.

Now many people ask themselves what the Australian outback has to do with the care of patients in Germany? From my point of view, quite a lot, because in rural areas of Germany with a low population we also have an enormous shortage of general practitioners and specialists at the moment. Telemedical consultations would be a very good help here in particular.

As in other countries, the e-health programme is not compulsory in Australia, but people must actively opt out of the programme if they do not want to upload their data onto the net. If you believe the statistics in Australia, just 1% of people do not want to transfer their data to the MyHealth portal.

Thus, out of a compulsion to provide medical care in remote regions, a movement for the entire continent towards an all-accessible health platform has become inevitable. Well over 10,000 healthcare institutions and several million patients are already exchanging their data via this platform. And more than 100,000 treatments have already been carried out telemedically.

Critics will now say that Australia is not comparable with Germany, especially since we have other systems here for financing health services through private and statutory payers. That is true, of course, but we should not be so naive as to push this issue from one legislature to the next and hide it behind the data protection directives. After all, a collapse of health care in rural areas in Germany can already be observed.

© PatientCareNews.com, Author: Frank Bergs