AS THE campaign against My Health Record ramps up across the country, the Government has officially announced it will extend the opt-out period for a further month.
Australians now have until November 15 to opt out or have a digital health record automatically made for them on a national data base accessible to GPs, specialists and other medical providers including pharmacists.
Federal Health minister Greg Hunt said the extra month gave Australians more time to consider their options.
The time extension was one of the requests from the Australian Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners after members threatened to boycott the system expressing concerns about patients’ privacy.
The government has also agreed to amend My Health Record legislation to require the Police or other government organisations such as Centrelink or the Taxation Department to apply for a court order before being allowed to access a person’s health records.
Doctors, unionists, privacy experts and politicians have all expressed concern at the My Health Record legislation.
Former AMA president Kerryn Phelps has warned of a number of grey areas including Section 70 which allows the “System Operator” – the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) – to release information in a person’s record to Police and government bodies and a second part of the legislation which allows the ADHA to delegate one or more of its functions to an APS employee, the chief executive of Medicare or any other person “with the consent of the minister”.
More than 50,000 people have so far signed a petition on Change.org asking for My Health Record to be an opt-in system.
Members of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union have been advised to opt out of My Health Record with the national office warning of the potential for the misuse of irrelevant private health information by employers or their nominated healthcare representatives.
There is simply no justification for employers to have access to personal health information that does not directly relate to workplace safety. Information about personal matters, including but not limited to sexual health, pregnancy and mental health, should not necessarily be sought by, or shared with, employers,” said a statement.
However, the government has denied that My Health Record information could be accessed by employers stating that under s14(2) of the Healthcare Identifiers Act 2010 healthcare providers were prohibited from collecting, using or disclosing a healthcare identifier number to a person's My Health Record for employment and insurance purposes.
“It is a criminal and civil offence for a breach; up to two years in prison and $25,200 for an individual or $126,000 for a corporation.”
The 2012 legislation will also be amended to ensure all information on a record is permanently deleted if a patient decides, at any time, to cancel their My Health Record.
Under the original legislation a cancelled record would remain on the system for 30 years after a patient’s death.
In Alice Springs last week all health ministers reaffirmed their support for My Health Record and the national opt-out approach.