7 November 2018

Hunt bows to pressure over MHR safeguards

MyHealthRecord TheHill

After bowing to demands for tighter safeguards in the My Health Record legislation, Health Minister Greg Hunt still faces calls to postpone the opt-out deadline that falls due next week.

The minister said today he had agreed to make the safeguard changes – which include tougher penalties for misuse of MHR data – in response to a Senate inquiry and “sensible and reasonable requests from medical authorities”.

The announcement came after a rush of people attempting to opt out of the troubled system reportedly caused a meltdown at the My Health Record call centre yesterday.

The planned amendments include raising the maximum criminal penalty for a breach from two years to five years’ jail and increasing the fine from $126,000 to $315,000 for individuals.

There are also provisions to protect patients affected by domestic violence and to ban employers from requesting and using health information in a patient’s electronic health record.

AMA President Dr Tony Bartone  welcomed the announcement, especially the provisions around privacy, confidentiality, and access by insurers.

However, he acknowledged more work would need to be done.

“The My Health Record may not yet be perfect, but it will get there with the support of the public and the health professions,” he said.

“It is better than anything else out there now. Some doctors are still using their fax machines. We need to move into the 21st century,” Dr Bartone said.

Labor’s health spokesperson Catherine King said the government needed to extend the November 15 opt-out deadline to allow time to consider the new amendments.

“These changes have been made with only days left until the opt-out deadline closes,” she said.

“We once again call on Minister Hunt to heed Labor’s call for a further extension to the opt-out period.

“We also call on the government to commission a Privacy Commissioner review to address outstanding privacy concerns about system settings.”

Ms King took the opportunity to remind voters that when Labor proposed the Senate inquiry into the e-health record, Mr Hunt dismissed it as a “stunt”.

“Now – with just a week to go until the end of the opt-out period – Minister Hunt has realised we were right all along and is scrambling to implement our fixes.”

The Consumers Health Forum said bipartisan support was essential for the My Health Record to succeed, backing the call to put off the deadline.

It said more time was needed for debate and to settle “significant issues affecting public support” for  the new system.

CEO Leanne Wells welcomed “several key improvements” in the amendments but said it was vital that the start-up of My Health Record was not overshadowed by uncertainty and political disputation.

“We urge our political leaders to work towards an all-party settlement before the opt out deadline is implemented,” she said.

“If that is not possible before 15 November, that formal deadline should be extended.”

The forum said the deadline was too soon to completely examine the proposed amendments to legislation to ensure that law enforcement agencies could only access a record with a warrant or court order and to allow the permanent deletion of records of people opting out.

Former AMA president Dr Kerryn Phelps, the independent who won the blue-ribbon seat of Wentworth vacated by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, said Mr Hunt should act swiftly to extend the opt-out period.

“I welcome these proposed changes but it really does seem that Health Minister Greg Hunt has been dragged kicking and screaming to the table at five minutes to midnight,” Dr Phelps said.

“The simple reality is that the House of Representatives doesn’t sit again until November 26 and that is beyond the current opt-out date.

“Minister Hunt needs to urgently extend the opt-out period in order for the Parliament to do its job to negotiate and then pass appropriate amendments so that privacy and security concerns are properly addressed.”

The government has also promised to review MHR privacy provisions for 14- to 17-year-olds.

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8 Comments on "Hunt bows to pressure over MHR safeguards"

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Stephan Hellmuth
Stephan Hellmuth
6 months 29 days ago

What has MHR done in the last ? 8 years to address privacy safeguards? Why did the medical representatives on the advisory board quit?.
I think if the access to MHR is only for the patient and his treating doctors(GP and hospital doctors) then MHR is worth having.

Jane Smith
Jane Smith
7 months 14 days ago
David, your arguments are around connectivity between different providers. No one has any issue with that. The issue is that MHR is not fit for purpose. To quote an IT expert… “It’s simple. If you don’t establish baseline standards for physically securing computers (and networks) that can access the system, eg. In Doctors consulting rooms etc, then you have failed the 1st security milestone. The next layer of ‘logical’ security is incredibly complex, and there is still no agreed best approach for securing eHR transactions and data. There are a lot of theories, but as yet, no expert consensus. (Search:… Read more »
David Fong
David Fong
7 months 10 days ago
Thanks for sharing that article Jane. Unfortunately, the views of Dr Janakiramanan are rather devalued by the closing comment which is : ‘Personally, in the current environment, with a conservative government doing little for genuine health improvement, I would rather not see those records written at all, than trust in the bravery of a few to later light a match.’ So perhaps the author’s views will change if nothing was to change except a different government, which in fair appraisal has, in both historical and current world-terms, has almost the same ideologies and principles as the current government? So the… Read more »
Dr David Fong
7 months 16 days ago
Even as of last week when I carefully explain what the MyHealth record is, and how it can benefit patient care, almost all of my patients (many non-English speaking, and with whom I need to communicate with the aid of a booked ‘live’ interpreter) can recognize the benefits and are willing to enroll into MyHealth in the current opt-in system. Just on Monday, when I was discussing MyHealth with an (English-speaking) patient, he both expressed enthusiasm and was also somewhat delighted to find out he had in fact already been registered (perhaps during previous appointments at the local oncology hospital).… Read more »
Jane Smith
Jane Smith
7 months 17 days ago

You can join a protest petition to Greg Hunt to make MHR opt in at this site
52,000 people has signed so far.

Jane Smith
Jane Smith
7 months 17 days ago
Want to know why the AMA and RACGP are supporting MHR? Read this: “My Health Record money trail: Questions raised over health lobby groups ‘on payroll’” (The Daily Telegraph 28 Jul 2018) By Sue Dunlevy “In the wake of a growing public backlash and increasing scrutiny of the My Health Record, key health lobby groups backing it are declaring themselves to be on the payroll of the agency rolling it out.” “We can reveal the Australian Digital Health Agency has spent millions of dollars of taxpayers money trying to co-opt the support of leading health and consumer groups for the… Read more »