Australia moves forward with open-access health records, raising privacy concerns

The Australian government's online patient information portal has its privacy settings automatically set to "universal access," causing some healthcare stakeholders to raise concerns about confidentiality, reports The Daily Telegraph.

Here are six things to know.

1. The portal, called My Health Record, offers a centralized patient record for Australians, including a person's medications, medical visits and procedure history. My Health Record has cost taxpayers more than $2.2 billion since its July 2012 launch, according to The Daily Telegraph.

2. The Australian government initially described My Health Record as an "opt-in" program, whereby patients would set up their own records with the option to restrict who can see certain information. Almost four million Australian residents set up an online account under this system.

3. Last year, the Australian government began a new trial to encourage greater use of the system, during which they turned My Health Record into an "opt-out" system. Roughly one million Australian residents were given a record under this trial, unless they opted out.

4. Only 147 of the one million enrollees chose to opt-out or restrict protected health information. Without restricting access to health information, all 650,000 registered health practitioners in Australia can view a patient's information online, according to The Daily Telegraph.

5. The portal has raised privacy concerns among healthcare stakeholders, who worry sensitive information — related to abortion, mental health or sexually transmitted infections, for example — can be inappropriately accessed by clinicians.

"Potentially your employer's occupational therapist can look at your record and get information they really shouldn't be getting access to," said former Australian Medical Association President Dr. Mukesh Haikerwal, who was a consultant for My Health Record.

6. The Australian Department of Health, however, stands by its trial of the opt-out My Patient Record system. The department said it went through "intensive communication activity" to educate participants in the trial, sending letters and hosting town hall sessions, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The Australian Department of Health plans to move forward with providing every Australian with an online record under the opt-out system.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars