12 September 2018

Phelps warns of hidden landmines in MHR legislation

Government MyHealthRecord Technology

Former AMA president Dr Kerryn Phelps has demanded a full review of the My Health Record legislation to look for more “hidden landmines” after an outcry by doctors over access loopholes.

Dr Phelps has also told a Senate inquiry into the MHR that it should seek a public examination of the business case for the Australian Digital Health Agency to guard against possible future privatisation and monetisation of patients’ data.

“We have to ask what is the real underlying motivation for this massive exercise in data mining. Surely it’s not primarily the patients’ best interests,” she said, addressing the Senate Community Affairs committee by videolink on Tuesday.

The high-profile Sydney GP said she had been alarmed at the access provisions revealed when she read the MHR legislation, despite assurances by the health minister and the ADHA that “policy” was in place to protect patients.

“Under the legislation, warrantless access to My Health Record by not only the police but other designated agencies like the tax office, Centrelink, social security, ASIO and border protection would inevitably corrode and destroy the principles on which the public health system has operated so successfully,” she said.

Australia would never have been able to mount a successful response to the HIV-AIDS epidemic of two decades ago if the proposed MHR had been in play, because key patient groups would not have trusted the system, she added.

Dr Phelps said proposed amendments seem to reinstate judicial review for delegated access to patients’ records, but the amendments had to be seen in the context of the full legislation.

“Just as we were reassured about third-party access provisions in the legislation, we need to look at what other hidden landmines there are.

“Only a full review of the legislation, and all of its possible implications, now and in the future, will be acceptable,” Dr Phelps said.

She called on the Senate committee to look closely at the potential monetisation and privatisation of the MHR data base, including the business case.

“This aspect of the legislation has been completely lost in public debate and should now be reintroduced in these Senate hearings.

“At time of the revamp of the My Health Record legislation by cabinet, it is a reasonable assumption that a business case for the digital health agency was prepared or considered by agencies and cabinet.

“The question as to whether such a business case exists should be asked and it should be published.”

Dr Phelps told the Senate Community Affairs Committee that many of her GP colleagues were opting out of the MHR and predicted doctors would not upload patients information unless they were “100% confident” it was secure.

She called for a 12-month suspension of the MHR roll-out while concerns were resolved, saying parliament needed to take charge of the legislation.

Dr Phelps said the Senate committee should dismiss advice that problems with the roll-out were due to inadequate communication about the benefits of the central health database.

“The problem has not been about communication at all. The problem is the content – or to be more precise, the lack of content. It’s also about the lack of protections for privacy and security.

“Not only has information about who has access to personal records been deliberately concealed, doctors and the public could rightly feel that they have been misled.”

Doctors’ concerns had been initially dismissed by the Health Minister Greg Hunt and ADHA CEO Tim Kelsey, she said.

“We were told, trust us, we have a policy.

“I was told the current ADHA policy did not allow access without a warrant or court order.  As we all know, policies can change unless there is legislative protection and parliamentary oversight to protect that.

“So, let’s say, one day in the near future the ADHA was to be privatised and that policy was no longer convenient or profitable.

“What if private health insurers could access this information and come up with an algorithm for insurance coverage. Some patients would find their insurance would become unaffordable and the sickest patients would be uninsurable.”


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5 Comments on "Phelps warns of hidden landmines in MHR legislation"

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10 months 11 days ago
And, do not overlook the Fact that the Medical Information on the Records are PATIENT CONTROLLED & not Doctor Controlled. The Patient can delete whatever he / she does not want – the Patient can delete the following Informations : Perpetration of Domestic Violence / Drug Dependency / Alcohol Dependency / Current Medications on, ( such as Ant-Depressants / Anti-Psychotics / Anxiolytics ) / STD Infections, etc. etc. I agree with Kerryn with all the other Concerns. It is not too late to put a 12-month suspension of the MHR roll-out while concerns are addressed & resolved. The parliament needs… Read more »
Sue McDonald
Sue McDonald
10 months 11 days ago

I agree with Lou,what is the government’s underhand agenda. Absolutely NO ONE CAN ACCESS OUR MEDICAL RECORDS WITHOUT A COURT ORDER so why should
the MHR be any different. It’s an abuse of power for dubious reasons.
Until this is fixed I won’t recommend or use it. A great pity since I agree shared relevant information between medical personnel is essential for good care and particularly to keep costs down.
I used to be a team player but not anymore! Big brother has screwed us too many times out of incompetence or malice.

David Jackson
David Jackson
10 months 12 days ago

I wonder why so many of the pharmacy profession are so in favour of the MHR when many including most IT specialists are against it in its present proposed form?

Lou Lewis
Lou Lewis
10 months 12 days ago

Let’s hope that the powers that be take notice of a high profile former president of the AMA as they have definitely not taken any notice of the rest of us mere mortals.

Once again I ask the question : why does the government want to have access to the medical records of all its citizens?


Dr Ian Colclough
Dr Ian Colclough
10 months 12 days ago

A full and urgent independent audit of the entire My Health Record (formerley PCEHR) project by the Auditor-General is required. Only then will the ‘truth’ be allowed to prevail.