A Senate Inquiry has made 14 recommendations to protect the privacy and safety of healthcare recipients and improve the My Health Record System.
Significant criticism by healthcare recipients, privacy advocates and peak healthcare bodies prompted the Senate to commission an inquiry into the controversial My Health Record (MHR) System.
Led by Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, the committee expressed concern that the implementation of an opt-out model struck an “unreasonable compromise” between the utility of the system and patient rights.
The inquiry found that security changes recommended by a separate Senate Committee earlier this month that would see a patient’s My Health Record permanently deleted if a patient decided to opt out of the system, and would only allow police to access records with a court order, are not enough to instill confidence in the system.
While the committee found the MHR system has the potential to revolutionise the quality and continuity of healthcare in Australia, the report urged the Australian Government to extend the opt-out period for a further twelve months beyond the current 15 November deadline.
“It is important that the patient safety considerations in this equation are not neglected in the interests of speed and efficiency, either within the system itself, or in its implementation,” the report said.
Default access codes, strengthening the current prohibition on access to MHR data for commercial purposes without consent, and ensuring that data cannot be accessed for employment or insurance purposes were all among the committee’s recommendations.
The report also recommended extending the period for which a MHR can be suspended in the case of serious risk to the healthcare recipient, such as in a domestic violence incident.
“The committee is not satisfied that women and children are adequately protected and believes that further work is required to ensure that MHR is not used by perpetrators to gain access to records.”
Under current processes, the Australian Digital Health Agency – who administer the MHR system – can suspend access to a patient’s record to all authorised representatives for a period of 30 days.
The inquiry further urged the Government to ensure the medical details of 14 to 17 year olds would not automatically be visible to their parents or guardians.
Parents are currently able to register their children for a MHR and potentially administer it until the child is 18.
Submitters expressed concern that these settings would restrict teenagers from confidentially accessing healthcare including mental or sexual health advice.
The report also called for more targeted, comprehensive education about MHR, with particular concern raised for vulnerable groups and hard to reach communities.
“The Australian Government and the ADHA must redouble efforts to ensure that the Australian public has a clear understanding of the benefits and risks of the MHR system and the steps they can take to manage their privacy and security within it.”
The report comes just one month after it was revealed that almost a million Australians have chosen to opt-out of the MHR system.