My Health Record gets $429m for technology upgrade

My Health Record will receive a $429 million cash injection from the Albanese government after an expert taskforce recommended the digital health platform be modernised to improve information sharing.

The funding, to be provided over the next two years, forms part of a $951.2 million digital health package that will also establish the Australian Digital Health Agency as an ongoing agency and improve Medicare systems.

Budget documents show the $429 million for My Health Record will flow towards several improvement to the system, including the creation of a new National Repository platform to support “easier, more secure data sharing across all healthcare settings”.

The funding will also be used to “improve the sharing of pathology and diagnostic imaging information, and targeted investment to increase allied health professionals’ connection to My Health Record”.

The upgrades will build on improvements to the digital infrastructure underpinning the system over the last two years, namely the Health API Gateway – considered the foundation for a new “information-highway” across primary care.

The Strengthening Medicare Taskforce in February found not enough health information was being shared between patients, practitioners and services, with the My Health Record system viewed a key barrier to sharing.

Despite the government spending $900 million on the platform since 2017, the taskforce recommended My Health Record be modernised, with Health minister Mark Butler acknowledging that the “outdated, clunky, pdf format system” would need to be upgraded.

But he also said that long-term funding, which has not been provided, would be need to “rebuild the My Health Record [to] make it into a genuinely 2020 system that has the ability to underpin real-time integration and interface between patients and healthcare providers”.

Funding for the platform had been slated to end at the end of the financial year, contributing to budgetary pressures of the government first Budget in October last year. The former government adopted a two-year funding cycle for the My Health Record in 2017.

In 2017, the My Health Record received $374.2 million over two years – funding used to bankroll the controversial switch from opt-in to opt-out – followed by a further $200 million in 2019-20 and $301.8 million in 2021.

In addition to My Health Record funding, Budget papers show the government will also provide $325.7 million over four years to establish the ADHA as an ongoing entity, which will also fund a review of the agency’s enabling legislation to ensure it remains “fit for purpose”.

A further $69.7 million over four years has been earmarked to “digitise additional health services, and better connect health data to improve access to services for customer and health professionals”, according to Budget documents.

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