The My Health Records Amendment (Strengthening Privacy) Bill 2018 (Cth) (the “Bill”) was introduced into Federal Parliament’s House of Representatives on 22 August 2018 by the Health Minister, Greg Hunt (the Minister). The Bill is intended to amend the My Health Records Act 2012 (No 63 of 2012) (Cth) (the “MHR Act”) to strengthen the privacy framework of the My Health Record system it establishes.
The introduction of the Bill is in response to criticism of the system created by the legislation and to the security and privacy of records stored in the My Health Record system.
The system was initially created under the Gillard Labor Government with around half a million patients being the first to receive electronic health records under a radical plan to overhaul the way in which medical data was kept.
The then Federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, announced $55 million for nine projects, to be run by various groups including pharmacists, general practitioners and hospitals. The plans included a Geelong project for doctors to view all medicines prescribed and dispensed to a particular patient enabling clinicians to see a combined list of medicines, regardless of how many doctors and pharmacists the patient had attended. Another project was a Medibank Private project to create electronic records containing basic health information and history for 28,000 patients enrolled in its chronic disease management programs across Australia and other projects to provide e-health records for maternity patients in Brisbane, for aged and palliative care patients in Tasmania, and for all residents of the Northern Territory.
At the time, the then government claimed that by 1 July 2012 any patient would be able to ask their doctor to create an e-health record which would be uploaded onto the web to be accessed with patient permission by any of Australia's 700,000 registered medical and allied professionals. Initially introduced as the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records Bill 2011 (Cth) the legislation was renamed and enacted as the My Health Records Act 2012 (Cth) (No 63 of 2012).
The amendment Bill will specifically:
According to the Minister, the safeguards that apply to a healthcare recipient’s My Health Record will be strengthened by the Bill, effectively providing that health information can only be collected, used or disclosed for healthcare purposes, with the healthcare recipient’s consent, in response to a court order or an order by a judicial officer, to respond to public health or safety threats, for medical indemnity claims, or in order to operate the My Health Record system.
Responding to public concern about the potential for unauthorised release of information by law enforcement authorities, Minister Hunt said in aarticle:
In the Minister’s Second Reading Speech (House of Representatives), he commented:
Speaking anonymously to the, a healthcare worker said it may be hard to know exactly who has viewed a My Health Record. The healthcare worker claimed it was common practice (currently occurring in an unnamed hospital), for a surgeon to leave a logged-in computer open all day in an operating theatre, "meaning passing employees could potentially access patient health records without being individually traceable".
The penalties for any unauthorised collection, use or disclosure of this information will continue to be subject to criminal and civil penalties – up to two years’ imprisonment and/or up to $126,000 for an individual (up to $630,000 for bodies corporate).
According to thewebsite:
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My Health Records Amendment (Strengthening Privacy) Bill 2018 (Cth) and supporting materials as reported in the TimeBase LawOne Service
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