Teens’ privacy to be protected by MHR amendment

Amanda Lyons

16/11/2018 1:44:35 PM

The Federal Government has listened to the RACGP’s concerns about teen privacy and My Health Record, eHealth expert Dr Nathan Pinskier tells newsGP.

An amendment that will allow teenagers to protect their MHR from their parents’ scrutiny if they so choose is likely to pass the lower house in late November.
An amendment that will allow teenagers to protect their MHR from their parents’ scrutiny if they so choose is likely to pass the lower house in late November.

The Federal Government passed new privacy and security protections for My Health Record through the Senate yesterday, including measures such as permanent deletion of cancelled records, no law enforcement access without a warrant or a court order, and a two-month extension of the opt-out period until 31 January 2019.
In addition, a further amendment has been added to ensure that parents of children aged 14–17 will no longer receive automatic access to their child’s My Health Record. Instead, teenagers will have to nominate their parents as authorised representatives before they will be given access.
Dr Nathan Pinskier, the immediate past Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – Practice Technology and Management, told newsGP this amendment is in line with RACGP advocacy efforts. .
‘I think it probably was an oversight,’ Dr Pinskier said. ‘It only became apparent it was a significant issue when it was raised by members of the college.
‘So we advocated very strongly [for the issue] to the [Australian] Digital Health Agency and all parliamentarians. It was a strong feature of our Senate submission.
‘And it’s pleasing that the Senate took note, and parliament at large has taken note.’
Dr Pinskier points out that the amendment simply brings the processes of My Health Record into line with pre-existing systems.
‘In the pre-My Health Record environment, a 14-year-old had every right to seek confidential advice from a healthcare practitioner and not have that information conveyed back and made visible to their parents,’ he explained.
‘The issue with My Health Record was that it was potentially exposing that information back to their parents, which is not necessarily consistent with 14–17-year-olds’ wishes.
‘So the changes to the legislation have now effectively aligned the current practice with the process of data transfer, so parents will no longer have [automatic] visibility of that information.
‘The MBS [Medicare benefits schedule] and PBS [pharmaceutical benefits scheme] data was already blocked, and that was existing convention prior to My Health Record, so Medicare had already been doing that for many years. This is just extending the restriction around other data as well.’
While some parents may feel concerned by the amendment, Dr Pinskier believes it is necessary to protect young people who may be in at-risk situations, and will have little impact in other cases.
‘This doesn’t change the status quo; if your child wants you to access their record, they can make you a nominated representative. It’s as simple as that,’ he said.
‘If teenagers come from a … family in which children want their parents to be involved in their healthcare – which is most of the time – why wouldn’t they nominate the parent to be able to access the record?
‘But when you have dysfunctional families and children who are vulnerable, the law needs to provide them with protection.’
Dr Pinskier believes this amendment is practical and sensible, and is pleased that the RACGP’s efforts in highlighting the issue have been successful.
‘It’s one the college strongly advocated for, on behalf of our members and 14–17-year-olds, and it’s wonderful that it’s been adopted,’ he said.

data privacy My Health Record patient records RACGP submissions young people's health

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