On 15 November 2018, the Senate passed the My Health Records Amendment (Strengthening Privacy) Bill 2018. The Bill was passed by the House of Representatives on 26 November 2018. This means the changes have now become law.
The Senate also voted to extend the opt-out period for My Health Record until 31 January 2019. The extension to the opt-out period will give Australians time to consider the new legislation changes and increased privacy protections prior to making an informed choice about whether to participate in the My Health Record system.
Records will be created for every Australian who wants one after 31 January 2019. After this date, a person can delete their record permanently at any time. The measures allow Australians to opt in or opt out of having a My Health Record at any time during their life.
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 Australian Parliament 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:
- 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 is backed up by harsher penalties and fines for inappropriate or unauthorised use.
A summary of the changes are available on the My Health Record website.
Over the next two months communication about My Health Record will continue through multiple channels. Communication will include proactive publicity, digital and social media and continued availability of community engagement sessions across the country.
Brochures will still be available in over 20,000 locations including general practices, pharmacies, hospitals, libraries and Australia Post outlets. Australia Post will continue to offer opt-out forms in remote locations.
The Agency are currently developing refreshed messaging to increase understanding of the enhanced privacy measures being put in place through the amendments to the My Health Record Act. Importantly, the complete deletion of records means that an individual can cancel their record at any time with all information within it deleted. Essentially, it will remain every Australians choice to be in, or out, of the My Health Record system into the future.
For more information visit www.myhealthrecord.gov.au, call 1800 723 471 or contact NCPHN’s My Health Record Team on (02) 6618 5436.
For a list of all localised pathways see: