Why I support older Australians using My Health Record
AGEING is not a destination, but a journey. It's not a place you suddenly arrive at one day - rather it's something we're all experiencing, all the time.
Our population is living longer than ever before, and before the turn of the next century it is expected that nearly a quarter of Australians will be over the age of 65.
The increased longevity is mostly due to advances in treatments, better hygiene and improved models of care - something that should be celebrated - but it also means it's crucial that our health system is robust enough to provide support for all Australians through their ageing process.
As our longevity continues to increase, so too do the new challenges faced by the aged care sector. Initiatives such as My Health Record can bolster our health system and make sure it is prepared to provide for all Australians across the continuum of ageing. As a nurse, I see the My Health Record as a great tool to support inter-professional and cross-disciplinary care.
As we age, the number of medical problems we face can increases, which in turn can result in an increase in the number and type of medications we take. With that comes the potential for side effects and drug interactions that can impact our quality of life and may impact our wellbeing and independence.
I've worked in the aged care sector for almost 30 years and love working with older Australians and their families to ensure they have the best quality of life. Time and time again, people in our sector hear Australians say they want to stay at home on their own or with their loved ones for as long as possible.
It makes sense that our aged care system allows this, supporting people to manage their own care and maintain their independence. Geriatric care is critical to helping achieve and preserve the best quality of life and independence for all Australians.
GPs are a central, trusted link in managing this care in the community. But there are times when juggling multiple specialities and tests, and accessing medical records and medications in a timely manner can be difficult.
The online summary of a person's key health information ensures we can work with patients and their support networks to provide a treatment plan that is tailored around them. It also means patients don't have to recall or repeat their story to receive continuity of care during vulnerable moments.
When patients arrive at hospital, they're often already too unwell to accurately recall all their medical history or medications. Being able to store that information and have it retrievable for all healthcare providers is of enormous value to both patients and clinicians.
Further, in the common instances of after-hours medical emergencies, a digital health record can be a pharmacist's best friend, preventing misdiagnosis or medication errors when information and support is not otherwise readily available.
I remember one elderly lady who would keep her list of medications in one shoe and the Australian national anthem in the other, in case she ever forgot either of them. While My Health Record won't help with the latter, her list of medications is one less thing someone in a vulnerable state has to think about, meaning her energy can go towards resting and getting better.
Susan Emerson is an experienced aged care nurse and thought leader working in an innovative role in the aged care setting.