Labor still pushing for MHR changes


A day before the end of the My Health Record opt-out period, Shadow Health Minister Catherine King again called for its extension

Catherine King has repeatedly called on the Morrison Government to extend the period, claiming that it has failed to adequately address security and privacy concerns.

In November, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the government would introduce further amendments to the My Health Record legislation, after concerns about protections for people affected by domestic violence, as well as misuse of information, were raised.

“Scott Morrison and Greg Hunt were dragged kicking and screaming into accepting Labor’s amendments and an extension to the opt-out period last year,” Ms King said.

“But since then we’ve had more reports of privacy breaches, and we’ve heard the concerns from doctors about their potential legal liabilities. The Government has done nothing to reassure patients or clinicians about these issues.

“We had also hoped the Government would have used the two-and-half-month extension to address other outstanding privacy issues – particularly around minors, default settings and automatic uploads. But they have failed to do so.”

She cited a Herald-Sun article in which it was claimed that 17 people had another individual’s medical information entered into their record, and a Sydney Morning Herald article in which GPs said they were investigating their legal responsibilities.

On Thursday the Guardian also ran a story – not cited by Ms King – in which a couple found they had been set up with My Health Records in 2016. They were told this was part of the opt-out trial held in parts of Queensland and NSW, but the couple live in Victoria.

The woman, an academic, expressed concern that her mental health history could have been accessed inappropriately.

The Shadow Health Minister said the extended opt-out period should have been longer.

“We maintain the Government should commission an independent Privacy Commissioner review of the system. If they fail to do so, a Shorten Labor Government will,” Ms King said.

Labor wants the review to consider:

  • The appropriate balance between utility for clinicians, patients and others (such as carers), and privacy and security for individuals;
  • The difficulty of ensuring informed consent in an opt-out model, and measures to encourage consumer engagement and informed choice;
  • Changes to default access settings that are necessary because of the shift to an opt-out model (from an opt-in model, where informed consent was assured);
  • Particular protections for vulnerable people, including minors aged 14-17 and families fleeing domestic violence; and
  • Further legislative, policy and system changes that are needed to achieve these aims.

In a doorstop on Thursday, reporters asked Mr Hunt why paramedics had not previously been able to access My Health Record.

Bettina McMahon, chief operating officer of the Australian Digital Health Agency, said that paramedics had only recently become registered health care providers, and “we’re now working with states and territories to connect up those systems to the My Health Record”.

Mr Hunt said that “over three quarters of hospitals, over 80% of GPs, 84% of chemists” were now connected to the system.

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