Community Concerns force government delay of My Health Record rollout

Dr Kerryn Phelps has welcomed the fact that both Houses of Parliament will now have the opportunity to consider the final design of My Health Record after the Government today caved in to public pressure and extended the opt-out period.

Health Minister Greg Hunt today agreed to extend the opt-out period until January 31, 2019, making his announcement just one day before the current deadline expires.

Dr Phelps had earlier urged Australians to seriously consider opting out of My Health Record until privacy and security concerns are dealt with by the Parliament.

“The medical profession, privacy and cyber security experts and many members of the general public have been demanding an extension to the rollout of My Health Record,” Dr Phelps said.

“There are critical privacy and security safeguards that need to be debated and legislated by the Parliament, so I welcome today’s decision to extend the opt-out period until early next year.

“The Government must now use the final two sitting weeks of 2018 wisely because that is the only opportunity before the new deadline to get the settings of My Health Record right.

“Common sense has prevailed with the Government announcing that the opt-out deadline will be extended.”

My Health Record is an electronic health records system into which around 17 million Australians will be automatically enrolled if they do not opt out.

Minister Hunt last week said there would be several changes, following pressure from doctors and other medical professionals and privacy and cyber security experts, as well as a Senate Inquiry into the e-health records system.

Proposed changes include increased penalties for misuse, strengthening provisions to safeguard victims of domestic violence, prohibiting an employer from requesting and using health information and a ban on health information or de-identified data being released to private health insurers.

The Government said will also conduct a review to consider whether it is appropriate that parents have default access to the records of children aged 14 to 17-years-old.

This adds to other proposed Government amendments, including that law enforcement agencies can only access a person’s record with a warrant or court order and anyone who chooses to cancel a record at any time will have that record permanently deleted.

“All of these proposed changes need to be debated in the Parliament to ensure we have the best possible system for the keeping of electronic health records,” Dr Phelps said.

“An important next step will be for a privacy commissioner to review My Health Record and for Australia to consider adopting a system similar to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).”