Committee recommends better teen privacy for MHR following calls by RACGP

Doug Hendrie

19/10/2018 2:27:06 PM

The Senate committee investigating My Health Record has recommended greater privacy protection for teenagers aged between 14 and 17.

Can teens’ health data privacy be better protected?
Can teens’ health data privacy be better protected?

Dr Nathan Pinskier has been clear on the issue of teenagers’ data.
Last month, the immediate past Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – Practice Technology and Management told the Community Affairs References Committee that changes should be made to prevent parents automatically having access to their teenager’s sensitive health data.
A key recommendation in the committee report released yesterday is that the privacy of teenagers aged 14–17 be protected by default unless they expressly request that a parent can view their data.
‘It’s great [that the committee] listened to and adopted a number of our suggestions. Now it needs to be translated into actions,’ Dr Pinskier told newsGP.
However, Dr Pinskier said two other major recommendations within the report – that the opt-out period be extended for another year, and that access codes should be applied to each record by default – are not needed.
He believes making access codes the default option would risk making the system unusable from a healthcare practitioner’s point of view.
‘It would be the view of most medical practitioners that this would be unwieldy and a significant speed hump,’ he said.
In his committee appearance, Dr Pinskier instead called for a letter to be sent to inform people when a health-trigger event led to the activation of their My Health Record, turning it from a shell record to a live record collecting health data.
This letter would alert people that their record was live and outline options for setting access controls.
The opt-out period for My Health Record is currently scheduled to end on 15 November. After that date, all Australians with a Medicare card who have not opted out will have an electronic medical record created for them.
‘The RACGP wouldn’t support the extra 12 months. Extending it by a year won’t achieve a lot – it will just delay the inevitable,’ Dr Pinskier said.
‘We should just get on with it and ensure there are appropriate safeguards.’
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has already ruled out extending the opt-out period, telling the ABC that denying the extension is to avoid delaying the benefits to patients.
Labor’s Shadow Minister for Health Catherine King called for the rollout to be suspended and an independent review of the system’s privacy.
The Coalition senators on the Senate committee issued a dissenting report stating there is no need for an extra year of the opt-out period.
But the Government’s senators called for wider engagement in the area of teenager data privacy due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Around 900,000 Australians – 3.5% of the population – have chosen not to get a My Health Record, figures that Australian Digital Health Agency CEO Tim Kelsey described as lower than anticipated.

my health record patient data senate committee teenagers

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Dr Horst Herb   25/10/2018 11:14:43 PM

The protection of teenager's health records from curious parents is surely a no-brainer - should have been there from the first draft version, hard to comprehend why it wasn't, but probably illustrates how the designers never quite understood the concepts of privacy and confidentiality, and still don't do.

The opt-out scenario however is nothing short of criminal - one of the worst examples of paternalistic arrogance and hubris. Dr Pinskier - very obviously - utterly fails to understand the potentially devastating consequences of the MHR falling prey to the usual unchecked rubber stamped subpoenas. I predict tears and grief with insurers, court cases, etc - disproportional to any potential benefit.

The MHR should be protected from subpoena except for cases of malpractice investigation - in all other cases record subpoenas should exclusively go to the source, with the MHR being exempt. All other scenarios are unacceptable and will eventually cause enough public distrust and outcry to fail this potentially very useful multi-billion product.