The view from Mount Isa

How can My Health Record and other digital health services improve lives in Mount Isa? We travelled there to find out.

Agency CEO Tim Kelsey travelled to Mount Isa in far Western Queensland with Prof Meredith Makeham recently to learn how local health services are promoting training and awareness in My Health Record and how they are approaching the opportunity digital health offers to improve personalisation of services and prevention of illness.

Western Queensland PHN covers nearly 1 million square kilometres serving a population of around 75,000. The healthcare challenges are great: low health literacy, low life expectancy (in fact the lowest in Australia), and high rates of potentially preventable hospitalisation. Stuart Gordon, CEO of the PHN, said:

“I’ve always had the My Health Record on my agenda – it’s the only way we can have a meaningful practice team. Even though there aren’t a lot of practices – there’s a lot of dirt between them. My Health Record is core business to us: you do this, patients will get better care.”

Stuart has reached agreement with the local Aboriginal health service (Gidgee Healing) and the local state health services to work more closely together on integrated out of hospital care. Tim and Meredith spent time with representatives from all three, reflecting on ways in which My Health Record can work better for their services, and the broader digital health strategy can support them.

Western Queensland PHN and Agency staff

Western Queensland PHN CEO Stuart Gordon, his team, and Meredith and Tim from the Agency

A discussion forum on My Health Record with other local health leaders followed that evening. Those attending strongly agreed with the clinical rationale between My Health Record but some expressed concerns about aspects of its operations. A doctor with the Royal Flying Doctor Service was concerned about the privacy controls in My Health Record, especially for people with sensitive diagnoses. Meredith explained those: but he was worried about the dependence on individuals knowing how to operate these controls, especially among the remote Aboriginal communities with whom he works.

The overarching consensus was positive, but it reinforced the Agency’s commitment to listening hard to the concerns of caring professionals and being accountable for endeavouring to ensure that My Health Record meets the varied needs of Australian communities.