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07 Nov 2018

AMA lobbying regarding the My Health Record system has paid off, with the Senate Committee conducting an inquiry into it accepting many of the AMA’s suggestions and the Government moving to legislate some of them.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced measures to strengthen safety and privacy measures, and to protect against domestic violence and misuse of the system.

“We have examined the recommendations from the Senate Inquiry, we have listened to concerns raised by a range of groups and My Health Record users,” he said.

The Government is moving amendments to Labor’s original legislation to further strengthen the My Health Record Act.

These include:

  • Increasing penalties for improper use of a My Health Record. 
  • Strengthening provisions to safeguard against domestic violence. The proposed provisions will ensure that a person cannot be the authorised representative of a minor if they have restricted access to the child, or may pose a risk to the child, or a person associated with the child.
  • Prohibiting an employer from requesting and using health information in an individual’s My Health Record and protecting employees and potential employees from discriminatory use of their My Health Record. Importantly, employers or insurers cannot simply avoid the prohibition by asking the individuals to share their My Health Record information with them.
  • No health information or de-identified data to be released to private health insurers, and other types of insurers for research or public health purposes.
  • The proposed amendments also reinforce that the My Health Record system is a critical piece of national health infrastructure operating for the benefit of all Australians, by removing the ability of the System Operator to delegate functions to organisations other than the Department of Health and the Chief Executive of Medicare.

“Furthermore, the Government will conduct a review looking into whether it is appropriate that parents have default access to the records of 14-17 year-olds,” the Minister said.

The proposed amendments are in addition to those announced in July, which have already passed the Lower House. They include that law enforcement agencies can only access a person’s My Health Record with a warrant or court order and anyone who chooses to cancel a record at any time will have that record permanently deleted.

AMA President Dr Tony Bartone supported the Government’s proposed amendments.

“We initially worked with the Government on a first draft of the Bill to fix the concerns about warrant access, and to allow people to delete their record, which gives them the practical ability to opt-out at any time should they choose,” Dr Bartone said.

“These amendments are now in the Bill.

“We also called for a significant national communications effort to ensure that people know more about the My Health Record.

“In a positive move, the Senate Committee agrees that the legislation should now be passed.

“The AMA also supports the Labor amendments to the Bill. We consulted Labor about their suggestions and agree that they further improve the Bill, and provide stronger protections for our patients.

“We have had successful Committee review of the legislation, improvements made with the input of the Opposition, and consultation to hear and respond to major stakeholder concerns.

“We also welcome the commitment to review the issue of parental access to the records of 14-17 year-olds.

“This and other concerns that arise can be addressed through policy change once the My Health Record Act is passed.”

 Shadow Health Minister Catherine King said more needed to be done.

“The Liberals are finally moving to clean up their My Health Record mess – by adopting Labor’s proposed changes – but they still need to act and extend the opt-out period,” she said.

In its final report, the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs has acknowledged the AMA’s input to the inquiry and the AMA agrees with many of the Committee recommendations.

Senior executives and doctors from the AMA appeared before Senate hearings on the matter, as well as submitting written recommendations for the way forward with My Health Record.

Of particular concern for the AMA were privacy issues and the sharing of information to third parties from a patient’s My Health Record.

The AMA called for warrant-only access to My Health Record data for law enforcement and other Government purposes; permanent deletion of all data in a patient’s My Health Record if the patient opts out; and stronger provisions to prohibit health insurer and employer access to My Health Record data – this includes a prohibition on health insurers access under the secondary use framework.

CHRIS JOHNSON

 

 


Published: 07 Nov 2018