australia medical recordsElectronic health records (EHRs) offer a lot of convenience for physicians and their patients. Still, Australians aren’t jumping on the EHR bandwagon as quickly as some may have hoped. The new program launched on 1 July 2012 and by 6 July, only 320 people had registered for it.

According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, deputy secretary and chief information officer of Australia’s Department of Health Paul Madden doesn’t necessarily think that the slow pace of adoption is necessarily a bad thing.

It’s possible that people don’t fully understand what electronic health records are and how they might be helpful to them. Some might be scared that having their information stored on server somewhere makes it more vulnerable to identity thieves and other criminals. Most likely, technical difficulties turned a lot of people off.

“Early problems,” says the Morning Herald article, “included constantly busy call-centre lines, the inability to register names that have apostrophes, and Medicare staff unaware that Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) registration was available. To register online, applicants are first redirected to the Australia.gov.au site to open an account with no apparent link back to the e-health record registration.”

The programs detractors have criticised the PCEHR program, pointing out other difficulties, such as security certificates and general practitioner software that aren’t ready as well as no electronic sign-up for EHRs.

Some physicians who support the idea of electronic health records wait expectantly for the software and other things that they need to get started to become available. They also realise that the success of the PCEHR program requires a concerted effort by Australia’s healthcare community and its citizenry. Without everyone collaborating to make the system work effectively, it could either fail or simply frustrate.

Australian citizens who want to register for the PCEHR program can do by visiting the EHealth website, calling 1800 723 471, by downloading and completing an application or visiting a nearby Medicare location.