The Federal Government has announced changes to the My Health Record legislation to ensure police and government agencies can’t access patient information without a court order. The amendments will also allow individuals to delete their record after the opt-out window closes.
The Australian Digital Health Agency, the system operator of My Health Record, had previously said its policy was not to release patient records to police and government without a court order. However, this is not specified in the current legislation.
“The amendment will ensure no record can be released to police or government agencies, for any purpose, without a court order. The Digital Health Agency's policy is clear and categorical – no documents have been released in more than six years and no documents will be released without a court order," Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement.
"This will be enshrined in legislation. This change to the My Health Record Act will therefore remove any ambiguity on this matter," he added.
The announcement was made after Hunt held crisis talks last night with the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).
“After the assurances we received last night, and the commitment to strengthen the legislation we can now move forward and have certainty around the protections to the privacy of those medical records, that our patients expect when they confide their information with us,” AMA president Dr Tony Bartone, told ABC RN this morning.
The government is also seeking to amend the legislation to allow people to permanently cancel their record and delete it from the My Health Record database, Hunt said.
Currently, if an individual has not opted-out by the end of the window on October 15, a record will be created which can’t be deleted, only cancelled.
Cancelling a record means it remains in the system but is made “unavailable”, with health providers unable to access it.
“The government will also amend…legislation to ensure if someone wishes to cancel their record they will be able to do so permanently, with their record deleted from the system,” Hunt said in the statement.
The RACGP said the proposed changes would allay patient concerns about the My Health Record.
“Changes to the legislation that remove any questions about who may be able to access the records ensure that the records will be able to be used in line with the RACGP’s position statement on My Health Records,” said RACGP president-elect Dr Harry Nespolon.
“When a patient steps into the office of one of our GPs, we want them to know that their health information is private and protected,” he added.
As of last month, more than 5.9 million Australians have a My Health Record and 12,860 healthcare professional organisations – including general practices, hospitals, pharmacies, diagnostic imaging and pathology practices – are able to access them.
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