My Health Record: should you opt out?

Chinchilla News - - NEWS -

TENS of thou­sands of Aus­tralian have scram­bled to pro­tect their health pri­vacy and opt out of the gov­ern­ment on­line health record this week.

Tech­ni­cal melt­downs, tele­phone queues longer than two hours and ma­jor pri­vacy con­cerns have dogged the first few days of the gov­ern­ment’s three month My Health Record opt out pro­gram.

Some peo­ple dis­cov­ered, to their sur­prise, they al­ready had a My Health Record that had been cre­ated for them with­out their knowl­edge and con­tained sen­si­tive health in­for­ma­tion.

A lead­ing IT aca­demic dis­cov­ered her My Health Record con­tained wrong in­for­ma­tion about which doc­tors she vis­ited.

The for­mer head of the gov­ern­ment Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Agency, Paul Shetler, fu­elled grow­ing pri­vacy con­cerns yes­ter­day by claim­ing he would prob­a­bly opt out of the record if he was an Aus­tralian cit­i­zen.

Mr Shel­ter, who headed the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment dig­i­tal agency in 2015 and 2016, said he was con­cerned the gov­ern­ment could ac­cess peo­ple’s health data through the record for col­lect­ing pub­lic rev­enue.

The gov­ern­ment had learned none of the lessons of the failed on­line health record in Bri­tain which had to be can­celled in 2016, he said.

Tim Kelsey, who was in charge of the can­celled UK dig­i­tal health records scheme Care.data, is now the head of the Aus­tralian Dig­i­tal Health Agency run­ning our My Health Record.

The My Health Record was launched in 2012 as an opt-in sys­tem, Aus­tralians who wanted a record could reg­is­ter to get one but, six years on, only six mil­lion Aus­tralians had a record and most doc­tors did not use it.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment de­cided the only way to make the record work and en­gage doc­tors was to get as many Aus­tralians as pos­si­ble signed up so they switched it to an opt-out scheme.

This means ev­ery Aus­tralian will have a My Health Record cre­ated for them this year un­less they take ac­tion to opt out by Oc­to­ber 15.

The record will re­veal sen­si­tive health in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing if they’ve had an abor­tion, a men­tal ill­ness, sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted disease or drug ad­dic­tion.

Health Min­ster Greg Hunt said the record would “save lives” re­duce med­i­ca­tion er­rors and the du­pli­ca­tion of med­i­cal tests and make it eas­ier to keep track of your health and he as­sured peo­ple it was safe.

“It is not just bank-level se­cu­rity but the ad­vice from the Dig­i­tal Health Agency is that it has been de­fencetested,” Mr Hunt said in Mel­bourne this week.

The Aus­tralian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion and Con­sumer’s Health fo­rum and other med­i­cal groups back the record.

There will be no na­tional tele­vi­sion, ra­dio or news­pa­per ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign in­form­ing peo­ple about the record.

PHOTO: ISTOCK

MY HEALTH: Con­tro­versy sur­rounds the opt-out My Health Record.

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