Australians can now opt in or opt out of My Health Record at any time and permanently delete their records following the passing of new legislation in Federal Parliament this week aiming to strengthen privacy protections.
Every Australian who wants a My Health Record will have one created for them after 31 January 2019.
They will then be able to permanently delete their records and any backups at any stage.
Responding to community calls for stronger privacy and protections, The My Health Records Amendment (Strengthening Privacy) Bill implements a range of new safeguards for people who choose to create a digital summary of their key health information which can be shared across healthcare providers.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), along with other unions, made a submission to a Senate Inquiry investigating amendments to the controversial system.
The ANMF stated it supported an opt-out system and introducing a range of measures to tighten privacy and security including denying parties such as health or life insurers access to records.
Run by the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA), more than six million Australians already have a My Health Record and over 14,000 healthcare organisations, including hospitals, general practices, and pharmacies, use the system.
Along with permanent deletion, the new legislation will block employers and insurers from accessing a person’s My Health Record or asking them to disclose information within it, bring greater privacy for teenagers aged 14 and over, and require law enforcement and government agencies to produce a court order to access information.
Other changes surround strengthening existing protections for victims of domestic and family violence and the threat of criminal penalties for the inappropriate or unauthorised use of information within a My Health Record.
It was also specified that only the ADHA, Department of Health and Chief Executive of Medicare, and no other government agency, could access the My Health Record system.
ANMF Industrial Officer Kristen Wischer welcomed greater protections for Australians looking to make the most of digital health opportunities.
“It was very pleasing that the new amendments to the Act address so many of the concerns raised in the ANMF submission about privacy and access to records by third parties,” Ms Wischer said.
With My Health Record evolving, the ANMF has committed to developing ongoing education and training opportunities covering health informatics to help nurses and midwives navigate the new digital landscape.
Programs will include a series of education modules and continuing professional development (CPD) options focusing on health informatics and the My Health Record in a bid to empower the professions to maximise the benefits of digital health in nursing and midwifery practice.
The ANMF believes the successful implementation of My Health Record remains crucial to delivering high quality healthcare and maintaining public confidence in the system.
Other My Health Record developments include the ADHA partnering with the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) to appoint six Nurse Champions in a bid to drive greater national engagement of the scheme.
The Nurse Champions will work with the ADHA, ACN and the broader nursing profession to educate and empower nurses to use My Health Record in their daily practice.