My Health Record opt-out period extended
The federal government has formally extended the opt-out period for My Health Record for an extra month until 15 November in response to growing scrutiny over the privacy and security implications of the digital health records.
The government also plans to change the 2012 My Health Record legislation to allow individuals to opt out of the system after the fact, and have an already created record deleted from the system permanently.
In addition, the legislation will be changed to match the existing Australian Digital Health Agency policy, which requires a court order for any release of My Health Record information without a patient’s consent.
Federal and state health ministers have meanwhile reaffirmed their support for My Health Record and the national opt-out approach, stating that expert clinical advice is that the records will improve patient outcomes.
But the government is facing rising opposition to its policy for the records, including an online petition that has so far seen more than 50,000 signatures and that urges the government to shift from an opt-out to an opt-in policy.
Various unions have also been urging members to opt out of the system due to concerns that employer doctors could gain access to a worker’s entire medical history, some doctors have threatened to refuse to upload data to My Health Record to protect patients' interests and the federal opposition is seeking a suspension of the system while such concerns are addressed.
Minister for Health Greg Hunt insisted that under the Act it is “expressly prohibited and using or disclosing a healthcare identifier without authority is an offence and subject to severe penalties, including two years in jail and a fine of $126,000”.
He said extending the deadline for opting out of My Health Record will give Australians more time to consider their options.
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