My Health Record a privacy and safety risk: Senate
HEALTH Minister Greg Hunt has refused a Senate Committee's call to extend the opt-out period for the controversial $2 billion My Health Record by 12 months while major new privacy protections are included.
The Senate committee has expressed grave concerns the record in its current state could allow violent partners to track down domestic violence victims in hiding and wants default open access settings changed.
However, Health Minister Greg Hunt said he would not extend the opt out period.
"The opt-out date has already been extended and the opt-outs are travelling at a significantly lower rate than expected," a spokeswoman for Mr Hunt said.
"We will not be extending it further as it would not be appropriate to delay the benefits to patients.
"The Government will review and respond to other items in the report".
Every Australian will get an online My Health Record that will reveal if they have a mental illness, an abortion, a sexually transmitted disease, are using contraception or are impotent from November 16 unless they opt out.
Almost one million Australians have already rushed to opt out after major public concerns were raised about security and privacy protections.
A Senate inquiry has now called for major changes to the legislation, a 12-month extension to the opt-out period and more money to be spent on public advertising to explain the benefits and risks of the record to the public.
To beef-up individual control over the record and guarantee patient privacy, the committee wants to scrap the current default setting of the record which allows open access to details in the record to any health practitioners treating the patient.
The current settings mean up to 900,000 health workers including podiatrists, dietitians or dentists registered to use the My Health Record would be able to see if a patient they were treating had a mental illness, sexually transmitted disease or, was impotent.
The committee says this should be changed and an access code applied to each My Health Record as a default and that individuals should be required to choose to remove the code.
Provisions which allow healthcare providers to override patient access codes in an emergency should also be tightened the committee said.
The emergency override should only be available to registered healthcare providers for use in "extraordinary and urgent situations".
The committee said it "is deeply concerned about the prospect that perpetrators of domestic violence may be able to legitimately gain access to the records of their children and potentially exploit that access to the potential detriment of their former partner and their children.
"The committee is not satisfied that women and children are adequately protected and believes that further work is required to ensure that MHR is not used by perpetrators to gain access to records," the report said.
Currently a domestic violence victim can ask for a 30-day suspension of access to the My Health Record by their partner, the committee wants this period extended.
The legislation should also be changed to protect the privacy of children aged 14-17, the committee said.
Currently the medical records of teenagers can be kept private from parents but under the My Health Record system, parents will be able to access the records of children until they turn 18 years of age, the committee wants this changed.
Concerns that employers could get access to the My Health Record should be addressed by legislative changes that make it clear an individual's My Health Record cannot be accessed for employment or insurance purposes, the committee said.
There are major concerns most Australians are unaware they are getting a My Health Record. The committee recommends that the Australian Digital Health Agency revise its media strategy to provide more targeted comprehensive education about My Health Record.