Beginning today Australians will have three months to opt out of the government’s controversial $2 billion digital health record system – My Health Record. If they do not deliberately opt out by October 15, 2018, they will have a permanent digital record created by the end of the year.

The ehealth scheme claims to improve medical treatment by creating a centralised health record for patients and doctors, but critics argue the system fails to address privacy and security concerns.

The chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation (APF) Health Committee is advising Australian’s to take the limited opportunity to opt out.

“The government has a lot of questions to answer,” an APF spokesperson told Which-50.

“When they do, and if you are satisfied by the answers, you can always opt-in later.”

According to the APF, the My Health Record system in its current form is problematic and creates unreasonable privacy and security risks. Centralising health data through the government creates a “honeypot” of sensitive information for hackers but the data used creates little benefit for patients or healthcare professionals, according to Robertson-Dunn

Amid similar criticism, which increased as the system moved to opt out, the government agency responsible for My Health Record, The Australian Digital Health Agency, has maintained the system is a “smarter and safer way to share their important healthcare information”.

A centralised record system will, according to the government agency, significantly reduce the number of misdiagnosis and incorrect admissions.

“My Health Record has the potential to have a significant and long-lasting positive impact on healthcare services for every Australian, and we encourage all Australians to find out about the benefits of the My Health Record,” said an Australian Digital Health Agency spokesperson.

Under My Health Record, patients and doctors can choose to upload medical information to their record, and users can decide what is there and who can see it. However, several of the system’s privacy and security settings require patient action to enable.

The Australian Digital Health Agency claims the system is already popular, with nearly six million people enrolled. However, the scheme has been available in some form since 2012 under the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records Act and only a small amount of this people registered are uploading information, according to The Conversation.

The Australian Privacy Foundation has further concerns, claiming the government is also incentivising health care professionals to provide data for the system at the expense of consultation time.

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