Student - Accounting, Macquarie University

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Expanding eHealth records beyond the medical industry???

Australia is in the process of implementing a single electronic health record (EHR) database that will consist of all the personal details and health records of every single person in the country. Everyone in the country will be given a unique ID number, and they will be able to restrict access to their information at any time.

Why can we not expand the scope of such a system, to allow other firms and industries to access such data? Instead of having a personal record for your bank, insurance company, accountant, lawyer, utilities etc., everyone simply pulls their records from one, up to date system.

Obviously, there would need to be restrictions to what each firm can access, but if we set up an intermediary, to audit and assess the safety and security of the firm in question, and how much information they are allowed to access, we would restrict the potential risks.

The benefit of such a system would make it easier to update and keep all your info in one location (i.e. changing address), as well as making it easier and more secure for firms to validate the accuracy of your personal details, thus reducing fraud. There would be no less privacy either, since most firms already have your personal details, and in any case, you are able to restrict who and what info is accessed from your record.

Any thoughts?

  • Sep 15 2011: In my country we have something similar to the German Shufa, its called "APC". Initially it was a database where you could check your private financial history. But with time and because or "human" factors, no information in this database is really private. To ensure privacy of people´s medical history, instead of creating a database, that would imply a high cost i would make some sort of personalized memory card, that can hold the medical history of any individual. This card could only be accesed in terminals or "dedicated card reading/writing hardware", installed in medical centers. So when you visit your doctor, you take your card, he reads it, checks your records, makes his decisions, and writes the information in your card, and you take your card home. Doing this we can ensure having fast access to medical records and the privacy of the individual will not be at stake.
  • Sep 13 2011: What ever happened to privacy, I guess it was an illussion.
    • Sep 13 2011: ONCE you have your privacy infringed upon, say, your medical identity is stolen, then there is a chance of erroneous records resulting on ur medical history, wudn it be a cause of worry? and wud you like someone to be held responsible for such breach?
    • Sep 13 2011: Well, if you think about it, banks and institutions already have most of your details.

      So how would signing a consent form to pull your details from a central database be any less private than giving them yourself?
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    Sep 12 2011: We have a similar, but not quite similar system in Germany, it is called the "Schufa" -- but it is only meant for negative records. Companies, banks and other institutions can access your Schufa record where detaials such as the following are stored: have you ever committed a crime? Have you ever not paid your credit card / mobile phone bill? There is also a database for traffic offenders where you collect "points" whenever you violate the traffic regulations.

    I have a highly critical attitude towards such databases, since they only seem to refer to negative things, but not consider positive things: e.g. there is an information about me having a loan I need to pay off, because I needed money for being able to obtain a Bachelor's degree -- but there is no information about the fact that my GPA was excellent. There was an information about me living in a not-100%-safe neighborhood in Munich -- but there was no information about me having a regular salary.

    On the other hand, I highly support the medical database approach, especially if every patient receives a number instead of having their names listed in the system.

    To extend this system, it should be possible for users to add their own personal information to the database as well -- like for example the GPA or awards they have earned, not just records from companies or medical services. It should be a complete picture of the person as a whole. But I don't think it would be possible to ensure it cannot be hacked or abused -- yet.
    • Sep 13 2011: hi Simone!
      glad to see your comments here. I found it interesting that in Germany, "Schufa" could be accessed by companies, banks and other institutions, granted that it's a system intended for building a better credit envionment in the society, but how do companies and instituiotns get granted such access to your records, any company would be able to do that. and you mentioned that there was inormation about you living in some place, how did such system get informed in the first place? what if you moved, would the records still be there?
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        Sep 13 2011: I don't think companies can see all the detailed information, I think it's rather a score between "trustworthy" and "not trustworthy". I unfortunately don't know the detailed procedures (maybe they communicate with the registration office?), but I saw their website is available in English as well: Hope that helps!
        • Sep 13 2011: thx. that should help alot. interesting network over there in Germany.
  • Sep 12 2011: Providing companies better assurance in terms of the accuracy and reliability of the personal information they possess?
  • Sep 12 2011: Further, risks would be mitigated via this intermediary acting as a 'safe guard' agent both controlling the access to, and storage base of the information, yes?