Where do you draw the line on your personal data?

The Australian Government’s “My Health Record” digitisation program has been in the spotlight recently with the automatic record creation opt-out deadline approaching in November, and a growing number of politicians, medical professionals, data security specialists and privacy advocates all having much to say. There are some who are for it, to improve access to their own medical records and to improve health administration, while there are others who do not trust the systems put in place to protect us. Those who are opposed to My Health Record being opt-out (as opposed to opt-in) have also pointed out that in order to do so, you are required to verify your identify. Simply put, people who do not feel secure with their personal information in the system, need to go through a process that involves entering their personal information into a system!

I personally feel we should all be very mindful of data security and protecting our most personal information, but I am not here to convince anyone they should opt-in or out of the program. However, the Analytics professional in me cannot help but see the potential upside to the advancement of healthcare services.

There is a lot to be said about the advancement of technology and analytics over the past 10 years, it really has become an extensive part of our lives. Netflix recommends TV shows to watch and even creates new shows it knows most of us will like. Amazon tells us what products we will like, LinkedIn tells us who we might already know and Facebook can influence foreign elections!

Grocery stores have reward cards meaning they know just based on your purchases that you have likely been promoted into a better paying job, or that you recently gave birth (which is when they email you specials about soft cheese and wine).

One thing all of these services have in common is data, lots of data.

The analytics behind recommendation engines and relationship networks is not overly complicated, however, it takes a huge amount of data to do it well.

This is why I see the potential in a system like ‘My Health Record’. A secondary use case for the program is to allow researchers and medical professionals access to the data for the purpose of improving disease identification and medical research.

If our medical researchers had the same data resources that our supermarkets and retailers do, they could be advancing preventative healthcare and research at much greater rates, which is surely more useful to us than being told what we might like to watch on TV.

Drawing the line on what data you feel comfortable providing is something only you can decide. There is a big difference between giving away your web browsing history for convenience and granting access to your most private medical data. Unless you frequently consult with Dr. Google and Web MD, then it is kind of the same.