Liberal MP Tim Wilson has opted out of having a My Health Record file. Picture: Lukas Coch
Liberal MP Tim Wilson has opted out of having a My Health Record file. Picture: Lukas Coch

Officials defend unpopular My Health Record scheme

THE government agency tasked with creating a digital health record for all Australians is scrambling to shore up the security of the sensitive data it shares with third party app developers.

According to a report by the ABC, the Digital Health Agency (DHA) is working to place restrictions on mobile phone apps that use patient data and wants to be able to cancel the partnership if the company causes damage to the reputation of the scheme or does anything deemed not in the public interest.

The DHA has reportedly sent a heavily amended agreement to companies HealthEngine, Healthi, Tyde and Telstra which already have access to My Health Record patient data.

As part of the changes, the companies will be given just three days to notify the DHA of any data breaches.

Earlier this year, HealthEngine drew the attention of Health Minister Greg Hunt who ordered an investigation into the online doctor appointment booking service following reports that it funnelled users' private medical information to law firms seeking clients for personal injury claims.

The digitisation of the population's health records via the My Health Report scheme has been operating for about six years. But the Government's controversial decision to change the system to an opt out system means everyone will have a health file created for them unless they opt out by October 15. Even once the record is cancelled it will be kept for 30 years after your death or, if the date of death is unknown, for 130 years after the date of your birth.

Healthcare officials say the digital records will provide benefits to patient care but many are concerned about privacy breaches and where the information could ultimately end up.

Patients can manage their file, limit who can see what, place a PIN code on sensitive documents and set up mobile alerts to know when their file is accessed and why. But the default settings will make an individual's file accessible to a huge industry of healthcare workers across the country.

Personal safeguards can also be overridden in emergency situations and accessed by police in certain circumstances.


In an embarrassing look for the government's program, a Coalition member has publicly opted out of having a digital health record. On Monday, Liberal backbencher Tim Wilson announced he had opted out of the system and believes that should be the default position.

"I don't think it will surprise anybody that my instinctive position should always be as a Liberal that systems should be opt-in and people should be able to freely choose to opt into a system rather than have to go through the process of opting out, and that includes myself," Mr Wilson told Sky News.

However for those who choose to take part he believes there will be benefits for efficiency and access to medical records.


Meanwhile Labor has called for the opt out deadline to be extended to allow the Government to run an information campaign to restore public trust in the scheme.

On the first day of the opt out window, about 20,000 Australians went out of their way to exclude themselves from the scheme.

In a letter to Health Minister Greg Hunt, opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King reiterated Labor's support for digital health records, but raised concerns the Government's implementation process had "seriously undermined public trust".

She accused the Government of failing to effectively communicate potential benefits and to explain how people's rights will be respected and privacy protected.

"This approach has fuelled suspicion and scepticism - which may be why tens of thousands of people have rushed to opt out in the first week," she said.

A spokesman for Mr Hunt's office sought to reassure the strong security protocols around the My Heath Record data.

"My Health Record is subject to some of the strongest legislation in the world to prevent unauthorised use and backed up by a world-leading cyber security team," he said.

Accessing a record without authorisation can result in prison time and up to $126,000 in fines.

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