One in 10 people with a Medicare card have chosen to opt out of the new My Health Record digital health system, more than 2.5 million Australians in total.
The scheme allows digital records to be shared between providers to improve the effectiveness of health care, but the rollout has been plagued with controversy.
The initial opt-out period was extended after privacy and security fears were raised and Australians reported difficulty in opting out.
Despite these issues, Caroline Edwards from the Department of Health said the result was in line with expectations.
“The minister indicated in July he was looking for a 90 per cent participation record,” she told Senate estimates in Canberra on Wednesday.
“That’s pretty much where we’ve landed.”
Those who have not opted out will now have records created for them.
Once records have been created, individuals can log in and manage their preferences and health providers can upload and view information.
The last reported figure for opt-outs, from October, was approximately 1.1 million – meaning the opt-out tally has more than doubled in the past four months.
Evolving, permanent choice
Although the opt-out period closed in January, Australians can still have their digital records cancelled. Already 300,000 have done so.
Tim Kelsey, chief executive at the Digital Health Agency, said Australia was leading globally in the development of access to health services and people should remember they are in control of their record.
“After opt-out, people are able to permanently delete their record at any point or opt back in,” he said.
“The sense that this is an evolving, permanent choice for people is very important.”
Labor’s health spokeswoman Catherine King said her party supported an electronic health record but the rollout had been “botched”.
“The government’s rushed implementation of an opt-out model created a range of problems and severely undermined public support for a system that could deliver enormous health benefits for all Australians.”
If elected, Labor wants to commission a review of the system by the Privacy Commissioner.