The opt-out period for My Health record has been extended by an extra month, says the Health Minister, who also hit back at union claims

In formally announcing the extension which had been foreshadowed earlier, Greg Hunt said that the extension was a “key request” from the Australian Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners.

This will give Australians more time to “consider their options” as the Government addresses aspects of the legislation around the record, including amending it to ensure that if a person wishes to cancel their record, they will be able to do so permanently, he says.

“We will also strengthen the legislation to match the existing Australian Digital Health Agency policy,” Mr Hunt said.

“This policy requires a court order to release any My Health Record information without consent.

“The amendment will ensure no record can be released to police or government agencies, for any purpose, without a court order.

“The Australian 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. This will be enshrined in legislation.”

An article by News Corp health reporter Sue Dunlevy earlier this month claimed that the existing My Health Record had been subject to nine data breaches to date.

Minister Hunt also addressed claims by unions: “As the Australian Digital Health Agency has already stated, contrary to incorrect claims made by unions this week, under the Healthcare Identifiers Act 2010, specifically subsection 14(2), healthcare providers cannot be authorised to collect, use or disclose a healthcare identifier, and as a consequence access a patient’s My Health Record, for employment and insurance purposes,” he said.

“Under the Act it is expressly prohibited and using or disclosing a healthcare identifier without authority is an offence and subject to severe penalties, including two years in jail and a fine of $126,000.”

He reiterated the unanimous support for My Health Record offered by all state and territory health ministers, which had been reaffirmed last week in Alice Springs; and the bipartisan support the record enjoys.

The Pharmacy Guild earlier this month welcomed the Government’s plans to strengthen the privacy provisions of My Health Record.

“Privacy of health records is vital, and it is good that the Minister has responded to these concerns and provided the necessary assurances,” national president George Tambassis said at the time.