- Independent analysis shows police can access individual My Health Record files kept online.
- However, that report by the Parliamentary Library in Canberra has now been taken down.
- Th Australian Medical Association is pushing the Federal Government for greater privacy and security of the digital records.
Analysis showing police have the right to access the digital records of Australians in Turnbull government’s My Health Record scheme has been pulled down from the website of the Federal Parliamentary Library.
The Parliamentary Library, whose work is widely regarded as objective, fair and non-partisan, says Federal Department of Health raised concerns about potential omissions in the report.
“The Library takes seriously its obligation to provide high quality information and analysis and I decided to take the post down while it is reviewed and also updated to reflect recent developments,” says Dianne Heriot, Parliamentary Librarian. “We anticipate it will be back on line later today.”
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The analysis, issued on Monday by Nigel Brew, a director at the Parliamentary Library whose interests include security, found that the law allowed for, under certain conditions, police and other authorities including the Australian Tax Office to access medical records.
This followed a statement by the Australian Digital Health Agency which said it: “has not and will not release any documents without a court/coronial or similar order.”
Australians have until October 15 to opt out of the scheme or they will automatically have an electronic health record that can be accessed by health professionals.
Today the Opt Out part of the My Health Record website was hard to access. At one stage it was saying: “Due to the Medicare system being unavailable you are currently not able to opt out of My Health Record.”
At issue is whether or not these records will have the same protections that paper records now have. Currently doctors will not release medical records without a warrant or a court order.
Dr Tony Bartone, the president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), is seeking a face-to-face meeting with Health Minister Greg Hunt, to ensure the privacy and security of the My Health Records.
“I will do whatever it takes to ensure that the security concerns are raised and cleared up as a matter of urgency,” he says. “This may involve examining the legislation.”
The AMA is a big supporter of the the project to create digital records for patients, saying the clinical benefits are enormous.
Section 70 of the My Health Records Act 2012 enables the Australian Digital Health Agency to “use or disclose health information” in an individual’s My Health Record if it believes it is “reasonably necessary” to prevent, detect, investigate or prosecute a criminal offence, or protect the public revenue or remedy “seriously improper conduct”.
The Parliamentary Library analysis said: “…it is reasonable to assume that this might include investigations into potential fraud and other financial offences involving agencies such as Centrelink, Medicare, or the Australian Tax Office.”
This is a significant reduction in the current legal threshold for the release of private medical information to the police and other authorities.
The Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) guidelines say doctors may wish, when presented with a warrant, subpoena or court order requiring a patient’s medical record, to oppose disclosure of clinically sensitive or potentially harmful information.
The AMA: “The records should still be supplied but under seal, asking that the court not release the records to the parties until it has heard argument against disclosure.”
The Parliamentary Library analysis says: “It seems unlikely that this level of protection and obligation afforded to medical records by the doctor-patient relationship will be maintained, or that a doctor’s judgement will be accommodated, once a patient’s medical record is uploaded to My Health Record and subject to section 70 of the My Health Records Act.”
Since that analysis the Queensland Police Union has advised its members that records can be accessed by police if they come under investigation.
“This means that your My Health Record may be able to be accessed if you are being investigated for disciplinary matter,” the union says, pointing to section 70 of the the act.
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