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My Health Record legislation amendments pass Senate

In Central Queensland, Sunshine Coast, Wide Bay by PHN Communications

Last week the Federal Minister for Health announced an extension to the My Health Record opt out period until  31 January 2019. The opt out portal and help line will remain open and available until then, however people can still opt-out or opt-in at any time in their lives.

Further to this announcement, on 15 November, the Senate passed the My Health Records Amendment (Strengthening Privacy) Bill 2018. The Bill will need to go back to the House of Representatives, which sits again on 26 November 2018. If passed by the House of Representatives in its current form, it will then be assented and become law.

The Australian Digital Health Agency (the Agency) has welcomed public discussion on My Health Record, and believes that reviews and inquiries of the system have progressively strengthened the My Health Records legislation. The amendments that passed the Senate are another step in ensuring the system has the confidence of the Australian public, promotes greater health outcomes and protects the privacy and security of people’s health information.

There are a number of amendments in the Bill that strengthen the My Health Records privacy and security protections. Briefly, the changes will:

  • Explicitly prohibit access to My Health Records by insurers and employers.
  • Provide greater privacy for teenagers 14 years and over.
  • Strengthen existing protections for people at risk of family and domestic violence.
  • Allow Australians to permanently delete their records, and any backups, at any time.
  • Clarify that only the Agency, the Department of Health and the Chief Executive of Medicare (and no other government agency) can access the My Health Record system.
  • Make clear that the system cannot be privatised or used for commercial purposes.
  • Make the principles contained in the Framework to guide secondary uses of data law

This will be backed up by harsher penalties and fines for inappropriate or unauthorised use.

A summary of the changes is available on the My Health Record website