State of Affairs

My Health Record systems collapse under more opt-outs than expected

My Health Record systems collapse under more opt-outs than expected

When citizens rush to opt out of an Australian government service, it says something about their levels of trust. When the system falls over under heavy load, it proves them right.

Australians attempting to opt out of the government’s new centralised health records system online have been met with an unreliable website. Those phoning in have faced horrendous wait times, sometimes more than two hours, often to find that call centre systems were down as well, and staff unable to help.

The Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA), which runs the My Health Record system, is reportedly telling callers that they weren’t expecting the volume of opt-outs.

“On hold with @MyHealthRec for over 1.5 HOURS to opt out without providing my drivers license/passport number. Turns out their entire backed system has crashed and they are telling support staff to just punch peoples details into the website. Confidence inspiring!”tweeted one caller.

“The person i’m speaking to is stressed as f***. Its their first day. I feel bad for her but she also has no idea what’s going on and puts me on hold every time I ask something that’s not on the script.”

The problems started early on Monday, the first day of the three-month opt-out period before digital health records are created automatically.

“Call operator Laura answers. Pleasantly & politely tells me she can help. Uses my Medicare number to locate my record. But can’t change alter my record as system down. She apologizes, guesses this is why I’m having trouble online and suggests I try again later,” tweeted Dr Leslie Cannold at 7.29am.

Cannold, a research ethicist and health regulator, said she’d like to see government prove the value of My Health Record, as well as their capacity to keep it secure, before she opts in to have one. The system should also be designed to allow users to withdraw their record at any time. Currently, opting out merely marks your data as “unavailable”, while actually keeping it on the system until 30 years after your death.

Those opting out have cited a wide range of privacy and security concerns — something this writer thinks is completely understandable. The ADHA’s Dr Steve Hambleton has downplayed the risks.

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