The government has changed its controversial digital health record initiative, My Health Record, following widespread backlash over the system’s privacy and security. The changes have been criticised by the opposition for not going far enough.
People will now have the option to have their digital health record permanently deleted, even if they fail to opt out by the October 15th deadline. Under the original My Health Record (MHR) plan, some patient data would be retained for up to 130 years, even if a patient requested it be removed.
The government is also reportedly considering extending the MHR opt out period by one month.
Further changes to the My Health Record Act mean police and government agencies will now require a court order to access patient records without consent, a condition that was not clear under the original legislation.
Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the changes following a consultation with the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.
In a statement, Hunt maintained the MHR scheme is secure but said the legislation surrounding it needed to be strengthened.
“No documents have been released in more than six years and no documents will be released without a court order. This will be enshrined in legislation,” Hunt said.
“This change to the My Health Record Act will therefore remove any ambiguity on this matter.”
- Read More – Cover Story: Every Australian Could Have A Digital Health Record By October 15. But Critics Question The Value
Changes not enough: Labour
Catherine King, Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, criticised the government’s response, labelling My Health Record a “fiasco” and called for the rollout of MHR to be suspended.
“Greg Hunt has completely bungled the My Health Record rollout and he must do a great deal more to fully restore public trust in this important reform,” King said in a statement.
“His humiliating backdown over police access to health records is only a first step.”
King argues the legislation underpinning MHR, introduced by Labour, was designed for an opt in system and the government had failed to make the necessary privacy and security changes when it switched MHR to opt out.
“For two weeks, Mr Hunt has been insisting there was no issue and that the Australian Digital Health Agency’s policies were enough to safeguard patient privacy.
“We now know that was false. This misinformation has further damaged the Government’s credibility and seriously undermined trust in e-Health.”
LNP MP Tim Wilson and Labour MP Ed Husic have both said they will be opting out of MHR. The government’s former Digital Transformation CEO, Paul Shetler, has also indicated he would opt out if he had to (Shetler is not a Australian citizen) because of concerns around privacy and security. Last month Shetler warned MHR had the potential to become another government “tech wreck”.