Australia's launching a national EHR — but 20K citizens opted out on the first day

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The Australian government is working to create a national EHR for all 24.7 million of its citizens by December 2018, but not everyone wants to participate, IEEE Spectrum reports.

The Australian government allowed citizens to opt out of the EHR starting July 16 — and that first day, more than 20,000 Australians chose to do so. For those who don't opt out of the system by Oct. 15, the government will create a health record for them, which will be kept on file for 30 years after the person dies. If there's no known date of death, it will be kept 130 years after their birth date.

The government, along with various healthcare associations across Australia, has attempted to highlight the benefits of the EHR, dubbed My Health Record. The primary goal of the national system, which would share patient information among providers at different healthcare facilities, is to create better care coordination, reducing issues like duplicative tests and adverse drug events.

However, privacy advocates and health practitioners have questioned the My Health Record system, signaling distrust in the government's security and privacy practices, according to IEEE Spectrum. Under current legislation, various agencies may be allowed to demand access to a patient's health record — for example, police officers investigating a crime may argue they have reason to access a citizen's health information.

The Australian government said it expects an estimated 10 percent of the population, or 2.5 million citizens, to opt out of the national EHR by October. However, the government does not believe this relatively small proportion of citizens will influence the viability of the system, IEEE Spectrum reports.

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