Melbourne hand surgeon Jillian Tomlinson said even those connected were not reaping benefits due to incompatibilities between the practice software used by medical specialists and the My Health Record system.
“Most public hospitals still don’t have connectivity,” Dr Tomlinson said.
“I can connect to it, but it’s not something I’m usually able to rely on to find useful information … Not many radiology or pathology results are uploaded.”
The official data showed only 41 per cent of pathology and diagnostic imaging services were connected to My Health Record on October 27. Nearly 90 per cent of GPs were connected, as were 90 per cent of pharmacies, 94 per cent of public hospitals and 33 per cent of private hospitals.
The Australian Digital Health Agency has been forced to pay medical software companies to upgrade their products to enable the different systems to communicate, with government tenders showing the agency sent more than $1 million to Medical Objects, Healthinc and Pro Medicus.
An ADHA spokeswoman said the agency had also provided funding to pathology providers Voyager, VCS, Austpath, Coastal Pathology and Infinity Path; and imaging providers Marina Radiology and Contrast Imaging, among others, but did not give figures.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Harry Nespolon, who runs a Sydney general medical practice, said the fact that not all GPs were using My Health Record meant that its usefulness for emergency room medical staff was limited.
“It’s still not a complete record,” Dr Nespolon said.
He said pathology and medical imaging providers’ systems should be upgraded to enable automatic upload of results to patients’ My Health Records.
State governments are working to improve their hospital IT systems after emergency room physicians complained of technical glitches.
Dr Nespolon said it was important that specialists got connected to My Health Record to make it useful for doctors and patients, because they often changed medications and “this can come with problems”.
An ADHA spokesman said in a statement that the statistics on specialist practices did not reflect the whole picture.
“Most specialists who currently use the My Health Record access it through the public and private hospitals in which they’re employed,” the statement said.
“The agency is in the process of working with specialist software vendors to connect their products to the My Health Record system.”
“Over 95 per cent of radiology providers and over 80 per cent of pathology labs have access to conformant software.
“Between March and November 2019, on average almost 600,000 pathology reports and over 100,000 diagnostic imaging reports were uploaded to My Health Record every week.”
Dana is health and industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.