MHR privacy strengthened

The Pharmacy Guild has welcomed steps by the Health Minister to strengthen the privacy provisions of My Health Record

Following media controversy over who would be able to access a patient’s record, and “constructive discussions” with the AMA and RACGP, Health Minister Greg Hunt has changed the privacy rules.

“Labor’s 2012 My Health Record legislation will be strengthened to match the existing ADHA 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 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.

“This change to the My Health Record Act will therefore remove any ambiguity on this matter.”

The Minister also said that the legislation would be amended to ensure that if a person wishes to cancel their My Health Record, they will be able to do so permanently, with that record deleted from the system.

The changes will be implemented and introduced as soon as possible, he said.

Mr Hunt said he and medical leaders would work on additional communication with the public about the benefits of the system.

The Minister has also foreshadowed a one month extension of the opt-out period to give people more time to consider their choices in relation to the My Health Record.

The National President of the Pharmacy Guild, George Tambassis, said these measures would strengthen the privacy provisions around My Health Record to allay concerns that had arisen in the community.

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

“My Health Record will provide health practitioners with significantly enhanced access to the information they need to treat their patients safely and effectively. 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.

Already more than 3,000 community pharmacies are registered with My Health Record – nearly 60%

The Guild says pharmacists should be encouraging patients to actively use the My Health Record as a tool that enables them to better understand their health and empowers them to take greater personal responsibility for their own medical needs.

Doctor groups also welcomed the changes.

“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,” said RACGP president-elect Dr Harry Nespolon.

“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.

AMA president Dr Tony Bartone told ABC Radio’s Kim Landers that under the amended legislation as he understood it, the need for a court warrant to access a patient’s data will apply to anyone, including any government agency or other authority.

He also welcomed the change to allow records to be permanently deleted rather than stored.

“We do take the importance of clinical information and the recording of that and the storing of that very, very seriously,” he said.

“But in this instance, it’s another one of the steps to assure the confidence in the system around the privacy which is paramount to the successful implementation of the My Health Record.”

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