Canberra bows to pressure over My Health Record
Bowing to public pressure, parliament has passed legislation that will allow Australians to opt out of the My Health Record digital health record system at any time.
Under the new legislation, My Health Record owners will be able to choose to permanently delete their records at any time in their lives.
The previous plan to disallow records from being deleted once they are created — only make them unavailable to healthcare providers — as well as a number of other privacy related concerns had left so many Australians rushing to opt out of the system before the earlier 15 November deadline that they overloaded and crashed the hotline set up to manage the opt-out process.
Under the new changes, records can be permanently deleted at any time and no archive will be kept.
The new legislation explicitly prevents access to My Health records by insurers and employers, allaying concerns that the system could be used to enable insurers to hike up prices and employers to use the health data to discriminate in hiring.
It also requires law enforcement and other agencies to obtain a court order before accessing My Health Record information.
Access to the system within government will be restricted to the Australian Digital Health Agency, the Department of Health and the Chief Executive of Medicare.
Finally, the legislation introduces strengthened privacy protections for people at risk of family or domestic violence, as well as teenagers older than 14. The new restrictions are backed by harsher penalties and fines for unauthorised use of My Health Records.
“The Australian Digital Health Agency welcomes this decision by the Australian Parliament and would like to thank all those who have collaborated in successful development of these additional privacy protections and the broader initiative to provide a My Health Record to all Australians who choose to have one,” the agency said in a statement.
Australians who have not opted out of the My Health Record system will automatically be assigned one after 31 January.
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