Category: News

My Health Record Opt Out Period

You have from 16th July until 16th October to opt out…

Did you know that by the end of 2018, an online summary of your health information “My Health Record” will be created for every Australian?

If you don’t want to have a My Health Record, you need to take action by 15th October and opt out.

There are a range of ways to support you to opt out, and these will come on line by 16th July. You can sign up on this web page for updates as they are released.

Why have a My Health Record?

In simple terms, a My Health Record connects the dots between, for example, your GP and your hospital care. Over the last several years, WA Health services have been working on linking your hospital discharge summary to a My Health Record. So when your discharge summary is created, it looks for a match with a My Health Record and if there one, it will connect the two. Your GP will then be able to see the discharge summary, and so will you. Getting a My Health Record will mean important information like this will be at your fingertips 24/7. This will result in faster and safer care for you and your family.

Do you have any allergies???

Patients often wonder why they have to keep repeating tests and explaining allergies over and over again. but currently, we have on way of easily sharing that information across our systems. A My Health Record will help with this.

Across Australia

Having a My Health Record will mean your important patient information follows you no matter where you travel in Australia.

Advanced Care Plan

You can also upload your Advanced Care Plan if you have one, on your My Health Record.

Whose records?

In our Advocacy service we often encounter people needing assistance in accessing their medical records. This will, over time, be a thing of the past, where people can maintain control over their own health information via the My Health Record. This is vital when seeking follow-up treatment, understanding our own health care and knowing what has happened to us.

What about privacy?

This is a huge consideration, and many will know that the My Health Record, which used to be called the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record, has been in the planning stages for many years, in part because of the important considerations of protecting privacy. If you are really concerned, you can opt out.

Extra privacy protections

One of the new features of the My Health Record will be the ability to set it up so that you get a text if someone accesses your health record. This is not something our current paper based medical records provide. You will also be able to control certain aspects of it yourself.

To find out more please ensure you, your family and friends go to the government website for information and updates.

How you can help support quality healthcare for all

For some time, I have been thinking about people across the globe that access healthcare (health consumers). Unfortunately, most are not able to access the same quality of healthcare available in Australia. I wondered how we in the ‘Lucky Country’ could share our good fortune with others and help support quality healthcare for all.


Help support quality healthcare for all

To help support quality healthcare for all health consumers, Health Consumers’ Council will nominate each year a selected healthcare charity organisation located in Australia and overseas. We will provide those who attend our functions the opportunity to donate a gold coin go towards the nominated ‘good cause’. We hope you will support us in this endeavour to help improve healthcare for those less fortunate than ourselves.


Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia

In 2017 we are collecting donations for ‘Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’. ‘Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’ was founded in 1974 by husband and wife, Dr Reg Hamlin OBE and Dr Catherine Hamlin AC. I first came across the ‘Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’ in the 1990s and have since read more about it, including in the book, ‘The Hospital by the River’, by Dr Catherine Hamlin. (Pictured: Catherine Hamlin Co-founder of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia)


Catherine and her late husband Reg initially travelled to Ethiopia (as doctors) with the intent of staying for three years. Originally from Australia they dedicated their lives to the women of Ethiopia. Dr Catherine Hamlin turned 97 in January and she still lives in her home in the grounds of the Adis Ababa Fistula Hospital.


Catherine and Reg are part of my collection of heroes, people I admire for the contribution they have made to the lives of others and therefore the world. Today we constantly look at life through the media lens, making the world seem almost devoid of genuine acts of kindness. So, it is even more important to recognise genuine heroes like Catherine and Reg.


The Hamelin Clinic also has an office in New South Wales and I encourage you to visit their website here to learn more about this wonderful couple, their staff and women the Clinic heals.


Louise Ford | Consumer & Community Engagement Manager

Vote for your health this Saturday

Vote for your health this Saturday, make your vote count and read about the public health policies that will affect West Australians.

The wait is over, this Saturday March 11 you and others across WA will vote on the future of our State. The 2017 WA Public Health Pre-Election Forum was held on Tuesday February 14, providing an opportunity for the major political parties to present their public health policies. The following is a summary of what some of our politicians had to say about their party’s public health policies:

Vote for your health

Liberal Party of Western Australia – Health Policies

WA Health Minister John Day commented on the ‘fantastic’ health system that we as Western Australians enjoy while also mentioning that health is an ongoing concern where there is always more to be done.

  • Health Minister Day spoke about WA’s progress in decreasing tobacco consumption through the ‘Make Smoking History’ message. Health Minister Day indicated that, should he be re-elected, the Liberal Party would push to make it illegal for under 18’s to sell cigarettes and cigarette products, as well as banning the sale of cigarettes at large events and festivals.
  • Health Minister Day allocated a further 12 million dollars per year to grants in medical research. Moving forward Health Minister Day said that there needed to be greater emphasis on patient-centred research and that he was keen to make progress in this area.
  • Health Minister Day noted that at the end of last year, 70% of women in the third trimester of pregnancy had been vaccinated against whooping cough and should his government be re-elected they would aim to make changes to legislation to train midwives to administer the whooping cough vaccine with the aim of making that percentage even higher.
  • On the subject of Aboriginal Health, Health Minister Day said that his government was committed to working collaboratively with Aboriginal people and communities and they would ensure that healthcare remained culturally appropriate.

Click here to read more


Western Australian Labor Party – Health Policies

Roger Cook from the Western Australian Labor Party commented on Australia’s robust health system but fears for a public health system under duress. Mr. Cook suggested that ‘data from our patients and hospitals would guide the story and direction of healthcare for the future’.

If elected, Shadow Minister Cook outlined a range of policy initiatives from his government.

  • The development of Western Australia’s first ‘Medihotel’ – designed for discharged patients and offering specialist care while patients recuperate. Medihotels will essentially free up hospital beds, allowing patients to be seen and treated more efficiently.
  • In order to reduce the strain on emergency departments, a Labor government plans to introduce ‘Urgent Care Clinics’ whose purpose will be to service patients at an alternative setting where the appropriate care can be provided.
  • Promoting a message of ‘prevention is better than cure’, Roger Cook says, if elected, his government will focus on health promotion through active living as well as mental and social health. A ‘Let’s Prevent’ pilot program will be introduced to address the growing numbers of people diagnosed with diabetes.
  • A focus around changing the culture towards unhealthy lifestyles will be brought about through restricting alcohol advertising, including on Transperth as well as tightening tobacco laws if Labor is successful at the state election.

The Greens Western Australia – Health Policies

Alison Xamon spoke on behalf of The Greens Western Australia stating ‘they will act as a strong and determined voice in the legislative parliament, particularly around the issue of mental health’.

  • If elected, The Greens have identified a need to focus on health in a holistic way by addressing systemic disadvantage and asking ‘how are people living?’ Understanding the social determinants of health and how they impact mental and physical health will be a key strategy of the Greens approach.
  • The Greens will focus on early intervention and the barriers to accessing services believing that once an individual is in acute care, they have ‘already been let down by the system’.
  • Alcohol and other drugs (AOD) are another key focus and Ms. Xamon indicated that The Greens would re-address the crisis by treating and understanding the problem as a health issue – not solely a legal issue. The Greens will stop the ramping up of this issue and recognise the impact it has on Aboriginal and disadvantaged communities.

Click here to read more

We hope this short and sweet health policy outline of the key political parties public health initiatives will give you the confidence to vote for your health this Saturday March 11, towards a stronger, innovative and well-resourced health system. Make your vote count.


Bronte Duncan | Advocacy Officer| Health Consumers’ Council (WA)

Telehealth, valuable, affordable & life saving for patients

Australia’s first large-scale trial of telehealth monitoring chronically ill patients at home reduced mortality by 40% in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria.

It also reduced hospital admissions by 36%, length of stay in hospital by 42% and Medical Benefits Scheme expenditure by 24% through savings in cost of GP visits, specialist visits and procedures carried out.

In a 12 month long trial CSIRO researchers  provided 287 patients with a telehealth device that included participant/clinician video conferencing capabilities, messaging features and the delivery of clinical and study specific questionnaires, as well as vital signs devices to monitor their ECG, heart rate, spirometry, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, body weight and body temperature, with glucometry an optional add-on.

Patients reported improvements in anxiety, depression and quality of life, with many finding that home monitoring gave them a better understanding of their chronic conditions.

Jack Fernihough, a participant in the trial, attributed the telehealth technology to saving his life when it picked up the early signs his heart was under increased stress, allowing him to receive lifesaving surgery.

“In April this year I had a triple bypass and without the monitor we wouldn’t have known that there was anything seriously wrong,” Mr Fernihough said.

“It found out things about my heart that I wouldn’t have known about until it was too late and I’d probably be gone by now.”

CSIRO lead researcher Dr Rajiv Jayasena said the 12-month trial enabled chronic disease patients to self-manage their conditions at home through the provision of telehealth services.

“Aged patients with multiple chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or chronic lung disease account for more than 70 per cent of our health system expenditure,” Dr Jayasena said.

Health workers can assess changes in their patient’s conditions remotely and provide appropriate care interventions earlier to help them stay out of hospital.

Djerriwarrh Health Services’ Telehealth nurse, Lay Yean Woo, said was a very easy process to monitor her patient’s health results daily.

“I can see the information in real-time, I can monitor them, following up with a phone call if there’s any issues with their health,” Ms Yean Woo said.

“Also with the time that has been freed up I can look after more new clients being referred to me.”

Dr Javasena said more than 500,000 Australians aged over 65 would be good candidates for at-home telemonitoring.

Telehealth returned $5 for every dollar it cost. Applied over the country it would save the health budget more than $3 billion a year.

By Frank Smith – HCC Blog Contributor

Do you have a chronic condition and live in a remote region of Western Australia?

Click here to find out more about WA Telehealth services.

Do you live in a remote region of Western Australia and require health advocacy?

Health Consumers’ Council (WA) (HCC) Advocacy Service can help you navigate the health system and help you understand and support your healthcare rights. HCC can help you find and access health services and assist you in providing feedback about your health experience. This free service is available to anyone in WA. HCC has onsite Telehealth video conferencing equipment available to assist consumers in regional areas. Call (08) 9221 3422 or FREECALL 1800 620 780 to speak to an advocate.

Volunteering good for mental health

VOLUNTEERING in middle and older age is linked to good mental health and emotional wellbeing, according to a survey of 5000 British adults. Researchers Drs Faiza Tabassum, John Mohan and Peter Smith mined responses to the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), which is conducted every two years on a representative sample of adults living in Britain.

The survey included a wide range of questions on how participants spend their leisure time and a battery of questions to measure mental wellbeing. Around one in five respondents (21 per cent) said they had volunteered. Women tended to volunteer more than men. Almost a quarter of those aged 60 to 74 said they volunteered, but only 17 per cent of the youngest age group. No association was seen between volunteering and mental health in people under 40.

The mental health scores were better (lower) among those who volunteered than among those who had never done so—10.7 vs 11.4—across the entire sample, irrespective of age. The average score was the best (lowest) among those who were frequent volunteers and worst (highest) among those who never volunteered. A positive association between volunteering and good mental health and emotional wellbeing became apparent at around the age of 40 and continued up into old age (80+). The researchers speculate that volunteering at younger ages may just be viewed as another obligation, while social roles and family connections in early middle age may spur people to become involved in community activities, such as in their child’s school.

The researchers were not able to gauge the extent of ‘informal’ volunteering, such as helping out neighbours, so couldn’t capture the full spectrum of voluntary activities. “Volunteering might provide those groups with greater opportunities for beneficial activities and social contacts, which in turn may have protective effects on health status. With the ageing of the population, it is imperative to develop effective health promotion for this last third of life, so that those living longer are healthier,” they write.

Previous research indicates that people who volunteer are likely to have more resources, a larger social network, and more power and prestige, all of which have knock-on effects on physical and mental health, they point out. “Volunteering may also provide a sense of purpose, because regular volunteering helps maintain social networks, which are especially important for older people who are often socially isolated,” they add.

Curtin University research professor Simone Pettigrew said the British results almost certainly also applied to Australia. “There have been some studies showing a relationship between volunteering and well-being among older Australians, mainly by Jeni Warburton from La Trobe University. Our (Curtin’s) random controlled trial that is close to finishing is aiming to test exactly this in WA by looking at both the physical and psychological predictors and consequences of volunteering among older people (60+ years). I’m hoping we’ll have some interesting results to share with you in due course,” she said.

By Frank Smith – HCC Blog Contributor

If you are interested in volunteering for Health Consumers’ Council (WA) call (08) 9221 3422 and ask for Lucy Palermo or email

Women’s Health – Am I normal?

Lucy Palermo | Marketing & Communications Coordinator | Health Consumers’ Council (WA) Inc

This year during Women’s Health Week (September 5th to 9th) theme is ‘An I normal?’. Women’s Health Week is dedicated to all women across Australia, to focus on their health, learn more and take action. Every year Jean Hailes (Australian Women’s Health Organisation) holds a comprehensive survey of women’s fears and needs. They survey both consumers and clinicians. It is interesting to see the disconnect between what the consumers think and what the clinicians think (see summary below). This research highlights the importance of asking consumers about their health, their role in improving health care and service design.

The data collected includes; women’s top five health concerns, what women are keen to know more about, and what health professionals think women don’t understand. This year the findings have formed the basis of the theme, ‘Am I normal?’. Questions answered by the survey included:

  • “Why do almost a quarter of women consider weight management to be their biggest health concern – more than cancer (17%) and chronic pain (8%)?
  • Who do women most compare their bodies to?
  • Why do more than 65% of women not have regular sexual health checks?
  • Where does the survey reveal gaps between what women worry about and what health professionals think women worry most about?
  • How many women went on a crash diet in the last 12 months?
  • How often do women visit the doctor every year?”


The complete report can be found here.


The results of the survey found these were the top five health concerns for women.



Compared to the top five health concerns as reported by health professionals.



Every woman at some stage has asked themselves ‘Am I normal?’. It is a perfectly acceptable thing to question whether our health is what it should be. But sometimes it is easier to say what is not normal, as everyone’s normal can be slightly different, which is still ok. If you do have any fears or questions regarding your health, don’t put it off. Go and see your GP and have your questions answered.

HCC Consumer and Community Engagement Program offers support, education and networking for health consumers as well as health providers who want to be part of making a better, more patient-centred health care system. We believe in the importance of authentic, productive partnerships in health care to create the health service we all aspire to have. Click here to find out more.

Step Forward – Together

CommunityWest in partnership with COTA Australia has been undertaking a national project, trialling co-production in the aged care sector.

The Step Forward – Together project has ten pilot sites using co-production in their organisations over the last eight months resulting in great success as a method for service improvement and innovation.

The consumers involved in the pilot site projects have also benefited from being involved and have reported increased confidence, improved relationships with staff, increased sense of self-worth and value, a renewed sense of purpose in life, and new skills and knowledge learnt.

Brenda Bryant is an avid writer and poet and has been writing a blog of her time during the Step Forward – Together project. She was delighted to be asked to take a peek behind the scenes and contribute to the renewal taking place in aged care nationwide. Brenda is 85 years old and has accessed home care services provided by Novacare Community Services since having a stroke three years ago.

By being involved in the Step Forward – Together project, Brenda feels even more appreciative of the effort made by Novacare to genuinely engage with the older people in her community. Brenda believes there has never been a better time to be old and has written this poem about her time with the project.

There was an old lady from Oz,

Who enjoyed co-production because,

She could add the odd thought

Though it might come to nought,

And compare the ‘what is’ to ‘what was’.


To appreciate aged care today,

We must bring every mind into play.

If we co-operate,

We can add much more weight,

And feel glad ‘cos we’re having our say.


I encourage you all to take part!

Use your brain for its bright and it’s smart.

Just have your say,

And you may, yes you may

Cause something unusual to start!

In this wonderful new world of caring

There is nothing so vital as sharing…


The ten pilot site projects complete 31 May and CommunityWest will be disseminating the learnings of the project over the coming months, including a documentary and ‘how to’ guide and toolkit on co-producing aged care services.

For more information contact Kelly Gray, CommunityWest Consultant, (08) 9309 8180.

Your Say on Cancer WA

A recent state-wide survey shows that many people don’t know that 30 – 40% of cancer cases in WA are preventable. With almost 12, 000 Western Australians diagnosed with cancer every year, this is both shocking and heartbreaking.


This information comes from a report recently released by the Department of Health entitled Priorities and Preferences for Cancer Control in Western Australia


This report summarises responses to an online public consultation conducted last year on the seven cancers which have the greatest impact on the WA community and greatest opportunity for prevention: bowel, breast, cervical, lung, melanoma, prostate and oesophageal/stomach cancer. The report has revealed that a third of participants were unaware that much could be done to prevent cancer.  In particular, many people were not aware of the dietary risk factors for bowel cancer and that cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable.


A poor understanding of the preventability of cancer is not necessarily surprising as historically, much of the discussion about cancer in the community has focused on treatment, sometimes to the detriment of prevention messages.  However, it does highlight the potential for reducing the pain, anguish and cost associated with treating cancer.


The value of this new report is that, in seeking out community views on priorities and preferences for cancer control it has identified some clear areas for increased action in the immediate future, including: Increasing the number of Western Australians participating in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program; Strengthening health promotion messages around recommended red meat intake; reducing processed meat consumption; reducing alcohol consumption; and reducing salt intake, as well as links between obesity and cancer risk; Working to raise the profile of cancer prevention and early detection; and Building on gains made in tackling harm caused by smoking, exposure to ultra violet radiation and asbestos, as well as exploring new and innovative programs to reach vulnerable groups and address emerging issues.


This is the first time the Chief Health Officer of WA has asked the community for feedback in a report and the first time (to my knowledge) an online forum has been used to gather community opinion on cancer prevention in WA. As a co-author on the report it was a privilege to bear witness to the frank, open and creative ideas for cancer prevention from our consultation participants.  We are very grateful for their input and the time they devoted to answering our questions.


The report was prepared in collaboration with a number of agencies including the Health Consumers’ Council WA, Cancer Council WA, Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA, Curtin University and WA Clinical Oncology Group.


To read more about the findings of the consultation and how the Department of Health is responding, you can access the full report here:


As a project team we also had a lot of fun planning and putting together a consumer website with a range of supporting material including a summary of the report findings, some innovative infographics of cancer data, and expert videos.


Check out the website for yourselves here:

Guest Blogger: Dr Jennifer Girschik

The cigarette packet that stops you smoking

All cigarette packets now carry warnings and graphic images to remind you of the dangers of smoking. Now Edith Cowan University and Curtin University researchers have gone a step further. They have built a cigarette packet that talks to you.

The cigarette packet is a plastic case for smokers to keep their cigarettes or nicotine-replacement products. The box is equipped with a speaker and microphone.

Smokers can record their own voice (or that of their loved ones) reminding them of the reason they want to quit. This plays every time the packet is opened.

Associate Professor Paul Chang from ECU’s School of Psychology and Social Science said the idea was to tap into the smoker’s own motivations for quitting.

“So far we have no widespread data, but we have tried the box out on clients of one pharmacy with good results. If you are a confirmed smoker with no intention of quitting you will have no interest in the device. But people who have already tried and failed to quit find it is a really good add on to change behaviour. It is very important for people to have their own personal motivation to do so,” he said.

Every time they open the packet it will give them a powerful motivation to quit once and for all.

“The message should give personalised reasons to quit that are important to the smoker, such as promises they made to themselves, their spouse or their children.”

“One thing I think that could be particularly effective for parents who smoke would be to get their children to record the message, encouraging them to kick the habit.”

Study participant Cathy Skalski said she had reduced the number of cigarettes she was smoking since she started using the packet.

“I have a recording of my two-week old grandson crying on my packet,” she said.

“It’s a great reminder for me of why I want to quit, so I can watch him grow up.”

Ms Skalski said having the sound play every time she opened her cigarette packet was embarrassing. That is a further incentive to reduce her smoking.

“I don’t like people looking at me when they hear the sound of a baby crying when I open the pack, which is good because it means I’m less likely to reach for a cigarette,” she said.

Professor Chang said the next step for the research was to use the data from the study to design a larger randomised control trial.

Professor Chang is currently looking for volunteers.If you are a smoker and want to stop but are finding it difficult to quit, leave a message on 6304 5745 or send an email to:

By Frank Smith – HCC Blog Contributor

Closing the gap in a generation

The World Health Organisation and the Commission on Social Determinants of Health have published their final report, Closing the gap in a generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of health. Please see an excerpt below:

“The Commission, created to marshal the evidence on what can be done to promote health equity and to foster a global movement to achieve it, is a global collaboration of policy-makers, researchers, and civil society led by Commissioners with a unique blend of political, academic, and advocacy experience. Importantly, the focus of attention embraces countries at all levels of income and development: the global South and North. Health equity is an issue within all our countries and is affected significantly by the global economic and political system.

To read the whole report, please click on the link.