Wagga residents will have until October to opt-out if they do not want their medical records stored online for third party organisations to potentially view.
The federal government has today announced that patients will be able to remove their digitised records from the My Health Record website between July 16 and October 15.
For the past four years, the program has worked on an opt in system, with roughly 20 per cent of the nation already set up.
Anyone who has not opted in by October will be automatically added to the My Health Record website, unless they formally opt out.
If a patient misses the opt-out deadline, they will be able to request that their account not be active, but they will not be able to remove it.
Julie Redway is the director of clinical support at the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network, which has been tasked with rolling out the system in the Riverina.
She said the online database will store information on allergies, medications, and test reports, could prove invaluable in emergency situations.
“If you’re presented to hospital and you’re unconscious, they’ll be able to access details on medical history that could potentially be lifesaving, Mrs Redway said.
Mrs Redway said over the past four years, it has mostly been the young and the elderly who have opted in.
“A lot of young mothers see the benefit for their children, to keep the family records in order.
“Older people may have many practitioners and medications to keep track of, so they see the benefit in making that a lot easier.”
Patients will still be able to decide what will be visible on their records.
“It will become a summary of medical events where you can still control what you want to share, you can provide your own notes, and you can keep track of things like your immunisation,” Mrs Redway said.
Mrs Redway herself opted in to the program when it was developed.
“I have control over as much or as little that is seen, but I can’t change any of the information that’s there, just who has access to it.
Contentiously, the records may also be given to third parties, including in some situations, commercial organisations.
Patients may opt-out of the service by visiting the My Health Record website or calling the service number in the allotted period.
But many older Australians who have little access to the internet, or who are unable to call on their own, may be unwittingly opted in to the program.
For patients with dementia, or other debilitating illnesses, a legal guardian will be able to opt-out on their behalf.
Mrs Redway said every effort has been made to help people make an informed decision before opting in or out, with services available for people from different language backgrounds.
“It comes down to choice, and some will choose to opt out for various reasons.
“But every step of the way it’s a matter of informed consent.”