New My Health Record privacy measures passed, but questions remain

Paul Hayes

15/11/2018 1:03:12 PM

The latest round of processes designed to strengthen the system’s privacy come one day after the Government extended the opt-out period.

Greg Hunt described the access provided by a system such as My Health Record as ‘a basic right in this day and age’. (Image: Mick Tsikas)
Greg Hunt described the access provided by a system such as My Health Record as ‘a basic right in this day and age’. (Image: Mick Tsikas)

The Federal Government has passed new My Health Record privacy and security protections through the Senate, but remains on the back foot following yesterday’s opt-out extension.
According to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, these privacy measures ‘further [protect] the health information of Australians’.
‘They include tougher penalties for those that misuse the system, strengthening provisions to safeguard against domestic violence, prohibiting employers from requesting and using health information from an individual’s My Health Record and that no health information or de-identified data be released to insurers,’ he said.
‘The Senate has also passed amendments that law enforcement agencies can only access a person’s My Health Record with a warrant or court order, and anyone who chooses to cancel a record at any time will have that record permanently deleted.’
News of the updated privacy measures comes one day after the Government announced it was extending the My Health Record opt-out period until 31 January 2019 after ongoing calls for more public education regarding the system, including who can access the records.
In addition, the My Health Record website and phones yesterday reportedly buckled under the weight of droves of people attempting to opt-out of the system.
The opt-out period was scheduled to end at midnight (3.00 am AEDT) tonight, 15 November.
Despite any amendments, the My Health Record bill cannot pass both houses of Federal Parliament until the lower house returns on 26 November.
Speaking on the Nine Network this morning, Minister Hunt tried to further explain the potential benefits of the system.
‘If you’re a mum you’ll be able to have access to the vaccination records for your children. If you’ve got older parents and you don’t know what medicines that they’ve been on and they’re in an extreme moment in a hospital, the emergency department will be able to protect them and ensure that they’re not taking something for which they have an allergy, such as penicillin,’ he said. 
‘So, it’s common sense. It’s something which six million Australians have adopted and this will, for the first time, give all of Australia access to their own medical records which should be a basic right in this day and age.’
When pressed about the security of the My Health Record system – ‘Is it safe or not?’ he was asked – Minister Hunt was firm in his response.
‘Absolutely,’ Minister Hunt responded. ‘The Digital Health Agency [is] absolutely clear that there’ve been no security breaches and so what that says is that this is safer than the record at the general practice. It’s absolutely safer than the record which might be at the pharmacy.
‘And above all else, though, it means for the first time you can access your own record and, in the case of an emergency they can potentially save your life. But, again, every Australian has the choice and they have that choice throughout their lives.’

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Rowena Ryan   16/11/2018 11:57:44 AM

I would like the RACGP to poll its' members about whether they support the MHR as I believe that as of six weeks ago 75% of GPs across Australia had opted themselves and their families out.
I would also like to know how much funding the RACGP has received to promote the MHR as I believe it has a conflict of issue on this matter.
Both the RACGP and the AMA, of which I've been a member for many years, support the MHR but I do not believe they are representing their members in doing so.