29 January 2019
Phelps raises fresh medicolegal concerns over MHR
Wentworth MP Dr Kerryn Phelps says the government should drop Thursday’s opt-out deadline for the My Health Record until it can clarify the medico-legal ramifications for doctors.
The former AMA president argues that doctors need a guarantee that they will not be exposed to lawsuits from patients if a mishap arises because of an incorrect or incomplete My Health Record.
Dr Phelps, who presided over the AMA during medical indemnity crisis of the early 2000s, said doctors could run into trouble in a number of ways.
“Some might be mistakes of omission, by not uploading something to MHR, or by making assumptions that the My Health Record is complete and accurate,” she told The Medical Republic.
“What it’s going to mean for GPs is not only extra time uploading information and getting informed consent for every piece of information that needs to be uploaded.
“It’s also about taking responsibility for what you decide not to upload – and for the consequences of that.”
The Sydney GP said she had been raising her concerns “under the radar” for some time because she could see large potential for error in a system where patients and their doctors could change and delete information from a MHR.
The ensuing medicolegal problems could outweigh the benefits, she added.
“If somebody can remove a diagnosis or remove a medication from the list, that’s where I say that an incomplete or inaccurate record may be worse than no centralised national data base record at all,” she said.
Dr Phelps spoke to various media over the holiday weekend, saying the government should “put the brakes on” the MHR for another year past the January 31 deadline and “get it right”.
“Let’s say a doctor decides not to upload particular information – maybe they think it’s confidential or sensitive information that they don’t want shared with anyone else – but that information may be necessary to make a medical decision by another doctor,” Dr Phelps told ABC radio on Monday.
“I think it’s getting into very difficult territory. If there is a mistake that occurs because of an inaccuracy or an incomplete record, who takes responsibility for that?”
She said a number of medical colleagues shared her concerns over medicolegal considerations, and she had raised the issue with Health Minister Greg Hunt and with the AMA.
“But I am not getting any reliable answers that satisfy my concerns about whose responsibility it is if there is a mishap because something is not uploaded to a health record or something is deleted.”
Speaking to The Medical Republic, she rejected the idea that any system would have imperfections.
“The point that I would make is that medical practice and particularly the medicolegal system has very little tolerance for imperfection in either diagnosis or treatment.
“By our nature and our training, and by our medicolegal understanding, we are not in a position where it’s okay to make mistakes.”