The opt-out window for the My Health Record system has officially kicked off, with Australian citizens being given the chance to choose not to have a government-managed electronic health record.

The window closes on October 15, after which point every Australian citizen who has not opted out will have an electronic medical record created for them.

My Health Record is the Federal Government's national program to modernise and digitise health records.

It involves the creation of electronic medical records that provide an online summary of a person’s medical history, test results and current prescriptions.

Doctors will be able to access My Health Records with a patient’s permission, and Australian citizens can access their own health records at any time through the My Health Record website.

The new records for people that do not opt out will be created on November 13 and will be initially empty.

The user will then have the option to upload two years of Medicare Benefits Schedule and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme data, as well as Australian Immunisation Register and Australian Organ Donor Register records, along with any other medical data they want in the record.

According to the Australian Digital Health Agency, more than 5.9 million Australians already have My Health Records, and 12,860 healthcare professional organisations are connected to the service.

It also noted that more than 95% of diagnostic imaging centres will be connected to the My Health Record service, being able to upload data directly into the patient’s record.

However the My Health Record service has been dogged by privacy fears, as various privacy and security advocates have raised concerns about the service.

The Australian Privacy Foundation, for example, is urging people to opt out, saying in a post on its website: “unfortunately, simplistic IT solutions that gather large amounts of raw, un-managed patient data, which can be matched with other data sources, which are onerous to use, and which are easily accessible over the internet can create far more insidious problems than they solve. In our opinion the My Health Record falls into all these categories.”

The Australian Digital Health Agency has refuted such claims, however.

ADHA chief Tim Kelsey said that the privacy controls in the My Health Record system allow granular control over the information contained in the record, letting users see who has accessed it, delete individual documents or withhold specific documents from clinicians.

Opting in and out

If you’d like to create a My Health Record immediately, you can do so on the main My Health Record web page.

Conversely, if you’d like to opt out, you’ll need to go to the My Health Record opt out page and follow the instructions.

You’ll need your Medicare number as well as an additional form of identification.

The Australian Digital Health Agency notes that neither decision is final.

You can delete your My Health Record at any time from the website if you decide that it’s not worth the security risk.

If you choose to opt out now, you can still create a My Health Record in the future by going to the My Health website and creating a new electronic health record.