The federal government has finally unveiled the period in which Australians will be able opt out of having a personal electronic health record created under the country's My Health Record scheme.
Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced the dates for the three-month window this afternoon following months of speculation about the date.
Individuals will be able to opt out between July 16 and October 15 this year, after which time a record will be automatically created for every Australian.
The month after the opt out window finishes will be used to “reconcile the data and to finalise processing of paper opt out forms" before individuals will be given access to their new records.
"The new records will be activated when individuals login for the first time or when healthcare providers access records in treating their patients," the department said.
"Two years of Medicare and PBS data will be uploaded, unless an individual chooses not to include this information."
A policy change from opt-in to opt-out e-health records was agreed to by the Council of Australian governments (COAG) early last year in a bid to overcome poor adoption rates.
It had been on the cards since 2015 when the government took up the recommendations of the Royle Review and announced trials that would automatically create e-health records for individuals.
The 2017 federal budget saw $374.2 million allocated to the rollout of the opt-out model.
Those who wish to opt out will be able to do so through the My Health Record website or by calling the enquiry phone line on 1800 723 471 until October 15.
iTnews revealed last year that the department had built a standalone portal to facilitate the opt out process.
Opt-out forms will also be made available to “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people from non-English speaking backgrounds, people with limited digital literacy, and those living in rural and remote regions” on request.
A national communications strategy will be implemented by the Australian Digital Health Agency to “inform all Australians of the benefits of digital health, and to explain the opt out process”.
It will be possible to cancel records after the opt out period, but those records won't be deleted.
The department revealed last year that the data in cancelled records will simply be made unavailable to healthcare providers, so that it can be reinstated should the individual later change their mind.
Similarly, those who choose to opt out now will be allowed to create a record at any time in the future.
Hunt said the e-health record would allow people to “take more control of their own health and wellbeing, manage their children’s health, and upload key documents, like advanced care directives”.
“My Health Record provides many benefits to patients, including reduced duplication of tests, better coordination of care for people with chronic and complex conditions, and better informed treatment decisions,” he said.
“I would encourage each and every Australian to use their My Health Record and to speak with their healthcare providers regarding these benefits.”
The announcement comes just days after the government released the framework that will govern the secondary use of data from the My Health Record.
More than five million Australians already have a My Health Record.