‘Grave concerns’: My Health changes slammed
EXCLUSIVE: Doctors are demanding further changes to the My Health Act as it emerges a person's sensitive health information could be handled by the immigration department and the Australian Taxation Office.
As Health Minister Greg Hunt prepares to change three key sections of the My Health Act to better protect patient privacy, doctors say new loopholes mean he hasn't gone far enough.
AMA NSW president Dr Kean-Seng Lim says the entire legislation needs to be reviewed.
Under section 98 of the legislation the System Operator of the My Health Record can delegate functions to "any other person with the consent of the Minister."
"This means the minister could delegate My Health Records functions to the head of Border Force or a tax official or anyone, it doesn't even have to be a government agency," former AMA president Professor Kerryn Phelps said.
Earlier this year the UK had to change rules around its health records after uproar over the fact information from NHS records was being used to track down illegal immigrants.
Professor Phelps said Health Minister Greg Hunt must add section 98 to the list as he prepares to tighten security and control of the record in the wake of a public backlash.
Dr Lim said he had "grave concerns about the use of health information for non health uses".
He will demand the AMA federal council make its support for the record conditional on a thorough review of the act.
"Our state council believes the legislation needs to be reviewed and that is the view we will be taking to federal council," he said.
Intensive Care Specialist at Royal Melbourne Hospital Dr Thomas Rechnitzer listed ten other changes he thinks need to be made on the Australian Health Information Technology blog.
The legislation should be changed to make it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of whether or not they have a MHR, make it illegal for any data to be sold by anyone, and ensure data from the record cannot be shared by default - that it can only ever be shared via affirmative consent, he said.
The Australian Digital Health Agency which runs the My Health Record said Section 98 of the My Health Records Act 2012 was a very common statutory provision in the vast majority of Commonwealth and State and Territory legislation.
"This delegation is generally only used for procedural matters - for example to enable the Department of Health to provide education on the My Health Record system. It does not permit Department of Health to have any access to personal information," he said.
"The Minister has made it clear that the legislation will be amended to reflect the current Agency policy which is that My Health Record information cannot be released to police or government agencies (such as the Australian Taxation Office or Border Force) without a court order or consent," he said.
After meeting with AMA president Dr Tony Bartone last month Mr Hunt announced changes that will require police to get a court order to access information on the My Health Record and says when people cancel their record it will now be entirely deleted, not kept for 130 years.
Dr Lim, who has worked closely with the government on the roll out of the record, said more changes were needed and fears public trust in the record is being undermined by problems with the record.
"I will definitely be arguing we need to review the whole process of opt out," he told News Corp.
The latest calls for change some as the Opposition has announced it will hold a Senate inquiry into My Health Record. Every Australian will get an online My Health Record from mid-November that will reveal if they have had an abortion, a mental illness, a sexually transmitted disease or drug addiction unless they take action to opt out of the system.
Rising concern about the security and privacy aspects of the record has seen more than 20,000 Australians opt out, with call centre lines overwhelmed by demand.