Electronic Medical Records AustraliaAustralia’s Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) initiative is scheduled to kick off on 1 July 2012. Average individuals and health care providers alike have some misgivings about the program because it seems there are some security risks that the Department of Health and Ageing (DOHA) is downplaying, according to Fran Molloy in an article for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Currently, people who are already enrolled with Medicare or the Department of Veterans Affairs have been assigned individual health identifiers (IHIs). Those who are interested in registering for an eHealth record – security concerns aside – can do so either by phone or by visiting a Medicare office.

Electronic health records are the wave of the future. They can make life easier on physicians and patients alike. Unfortunately, a public security breach of the DOHA’s eHealth education website has caused some to wonder about the wisdom of going forward with this plan before all the kinks have been worked out.

Says Molloy, “IT security consultant Chris Gatford of HackLabs said the hack showed a critical security process that should have blocked access to external editing of the site wasn’t followed …” and that “vulnerabilities could include a coding error, a software patch not applied or having no process to detect security vulnerabilities – all standard basic security processes that should be integral to such a major project.”

Human error, it seems, poses as big a threat to the security of Australian eHealth records as anything else. Perhaps what’s really needed at this point is more or better training.

The transition from paper to electronic health records could do a lot to help physicians throughout Australia provide their patients with better care. But if security around those records isn’t tightened before 1 July, it could put hundreds of thousands of people at risk.

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