July 16 marks the beginning of the three-month period Australians have to opt-out of having their personal details and health information loaded into the Federal Government’s My Health Record online database.
My Health Record has been marketed as being an online summary of your health information that can be accessed at any time by you and your healthcare professionals. However, thanks to the recent slew of data breaches, this Australia wide introduction of a record for every child and individual with a Medicare card raises questions around security and privacy.
If you don’t opt out of the service before October 15, an e-health record will be created for you by default. There is an additional 30 days allowed for reconciliation of paper opt-out forms, with records being officially created from November 13 onwards. If you fail to opt-out of this service before the deadline you can still cancel you e-health record at any time, however these records won’t be deleted.
You can choose to opt out and have no My Health Record, but once you have one, doctors can upload health information into it unless you ask them not to. When you see a doctor, you can choose whether or not documents such as health overviews, medicinal summaries or referral letters will be logged into the system, and your e-record will only contain what you and your doctors choose to upload. You can even delete or restrict access to those documents at a later date if you so wish. Although, it’s worth noting that not all hospitals and healthcare services are connected to My Health Record yet.
The idea behind the My Health Record scheme is the benefit of having all your medical information in one place, where you control who has access to it and who you share the information with. The project aims to give patients and doctors access to timely medical information, such as test results, referral letters and organ donation information. However, the biggest issue with the scheme is the potential for medical and healthcare information to be uploaded onto a record without the individual knowing. A possible scenario given that data can be loaded up to the record without it having been personally activated by the individual, if the individual has failed to opt out or follow up on their record.
What do you need to know about My Health Record?
- A My Health Record e-record will be made for every Australian with a Medicare of DVA number that doesn’t already have a My Health Record, this includes children. If you have previously registered for a record, then cancelled it, another record will not be made for you.
- After the record is made it needs to be activated. It is at this point in the set-up process that you will be asked if you want two years of Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) data uploaded, and if you want Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) and Australian Organ Donor Register (AODR) data uploaded.
- Data older than two years will not be uploaded.
- While individuals can choose to have two years of data uploaded if they activate the account themselves, this is not the case if activated by a healthcare provider.
- The information we previously mentioned may be automatically uploaded should your e-record be activated by a health care provider.
- While you can cancel an e-record after the opt-out period, the information stored in it will not be deleted.
- Once cancelled, no one can load healthcare information into the record.
- Each person can choose what information is loaded into the e-record and who has access to the information.
- ADHA is the system operator of My health Record and they claim their system has not been breached since My Health Record launched in 2012. ADHA are required to notify you if there is a data breach.
- De-identified data will be shared for public health policy, planning and research purposes from 2020unless you opt-out within the record.
- In addition to data permission features, the record also has a number of other built-in privacy protections, including the ability to set up an access code and to view an audit log. However, you need to be proactive with these functions.
- Individuals can also set an SMS or email alert that tells them if someone else viewed the contents of their health record.
How can you opt out?
You can opt out by visiting the My Health Record website.
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