Labor to examine ‘bungled’ MHR rollout

Catherine King, Shadow Minister for Health

Labor plans to lead a comprehensive Senate inquiry into My Health Record, which Shadow Health Minister Catherine King has called a “fiasco”

“We remain deeply concerned that the Government’s bungled rollout of the My Health Record opt-out period has severely undermined public trust in this important reform,” said Catherine King and NSW Senator Jenny McAllister in a statement this week.

Citing privacy and security concerns, they say that while Labor supports an electronic health system, such a system requires a high degree of public support in order to succeed.

Health Minister Greg Hunt announced earlier this month that the opt-out period for My Health Record would be extended by one month, and legislation would be tightened so that a court order would be required to release any MHR information without consent.

It was also altered so that if a person wished to cancel their record, they could do so permanently.

However Labor says more needs to be done.

“We will this week ask the crossbench to support a reference to the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee, which also inquired into the census failure and the sale of Medicare numbers on the darkweb,” say Ms King and Senator McAllister.

“The inquiry will review all the laws, regulations and rules that underpin the My Health Record.

“It will examine the Government’s decision to shift from an opt-in system to an opt-out system and whether it adequately prepared for this fundamental change from Labor’s system.

“It will examine a range of privacy and security concerns, including the adequacy of the system’s log-in procedures and default settings. It will also consider issues raised in the public domain around domestic violence and workers’ compensation.”

The inquiry will also examine the adequacy of the Government’s public information campaign, and the potential for commercial interests such as health insurers could gain access to MHR data.

In July, NIB chief executive Mark Fitzgibbon told Fairfax Media that he hoped NIB could gain permission from its customers to access their MHR.

“We are moving to this world in which we’re able to, like never before, predict, prevent and better manage or better treat diseases based on knowledge we have of your individual health profile,” Mr Fitzgibbon told reporter Nassim Khadem at the time.

“We cannot do that without information about who you are … We desperately need this data to make the world a better place.”

And earlier this month Fairfax reporter Esther Han wrote that MHR would have the ability to store genomic information, “such as a person’s genetic risk of developing cancer, which could turbocharge medical research but has intensified privacy and security fears”.

She wrote that whole genome sequencing company Genome.One has developed infrastructure in order to upload genomic information onto My Health Records.

More than 3000 pharmacies are currently registered with My Health Record, which has been welcomed by pharmacy stakeholder groups.

“My Health Record will provide health practitioners with significantly enhanced access to the information they need to treat their patients safely and effectively,” said Pharmacy Guild national president George Tambassis earlier this month.

“We will continue to work with the Government and the Australian Digital Health Agency to inform pharmacists, pharmacy staff and patients about My Health Record,” he said.

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