My Health Record will help us lead longer and healthier lives if we let it, says nib chief Mark Fitzgibbon. Picture: iStock
My Health Record will help us lead longer and healthier lives if we let it, says nib chief Mark Fitzgibbon. Picture: iStock

My Health a chance to predict and prevent

POWERED by the digital age, we can aspire to a future healthcare system that allows us to have healthier and longer lives.

A system that, courtesy of "big data" and artificial intelligence, predicts and prevents disease before it happens and, if it does, ensures treatment is more precise and efficacious.

My Health Record and our entire national digital health strategy must be seen within this context.

There's been way too much hysteria and focus upon the risks around security and privacy with nowhere near enough commentary on the enormous future upside.

I'm not suggesting the risk of having my personal details shared with someone it shouldn't be isn't real. However, as with any transformational initiative, we need to have some tolerance for risk and I believe people should be generally comfortable that My Health Record has been designed with the privacy and security of their personal data as a top priority.

Very importantly, we ultimately get to control what can be seen and by whom.

And it's not like the data doesn't already exist currently, housed within various government electronic silos.

Much of the case for My Health Record to date has centred upon the virtue of having a "single source of truth" of my personal healthcare experience as well as my ability to interact with the healthcare system.

Both are very important.

So if I am lying unconscious in an intensive care unit, I totally want the doctors to know as much medically as there is to know about me.

I also want to be able to integrate my health records with other data I'll increasingly create to manage my health, such as biometric data from my digital devices.

Having all of your medical data in a single record is very convenient, efficient and in this digital age, hardly ahead of its time.

However, there's an even bigger picture.

The potential to better "personalise" our individual healthcare via insight from population or secondary data is My Health Record's greatest attribute.

With population and additional data - such as genome sequencing and even social circumstances - combined with the might of AI we'll be able to recognise patterns and write algorithms for predicting and preventing disease and more precisely managing and treating disease.

We personalise it all by overlaying the population algorithms with our own individual health profiles.

Nib chief executive Mark Fitzgibbon. Picture: AAP
Nib chief executive Mark Fitzgibbon. Picture: AAP

In effect, the data science will help us make better life and healthcare decisions guided by the actual experience of millions of others with similar profiles.

Contrast this with the present and so much one-size-fits-all healthcare.

That's not because doctors aren't sensitive to people being different but because the deep insight about someone's biology, physiology, genealogy, psychology and activity all made possible by data sets such as My Health Record simply hasn't existed.

Importantly, doctors as well as patients stand to benefit from this data-driven personalisation as it will assist their own diagnosis, decision-making and success in curing patients.

With Cambridge Analytica still fresh in people's minds, we need of course to win people's trust and engagement.

There's little use having a very deep insight into a person's health and risk if they "opt out" and it isn't actually used to their advantage.

When people don't participate it also reduces the "network" benefit associated with having so much data to analyse and interpret.

Hopefully, in their own and everyone's interest, most will see the promise of My Health Record, its place in helping Australians improve their health and longevity and accept the upside materially outweighs any downside risk.

Mark Fitzgibbon is Nib Health Funds' chief executive officer

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