MyHealth Record rollout saga shambles on: ALP wants it put on hold

Even the Parliamentary Library doesn't agree with minister

The rollout of Australia's MyHealth Record e-health system is moving from “troubled” towards “shambles”.

In the space of the past few days: The Parliamentary Library has contradicted health minister Greg Hunt on the matter of law enforcement access to health records; Hunt has stuck to his guns nonetheless; the Australian Medical Association wants confirmation of doctor-patient confidentiality; and the federal Labor opposition has taken a small, careful step back from what was previously unqualified bipartisan support for the system.

Both Hunt and the Australian Digital Health Agency have repeatedly said that the agency's policy not to release patient data was what mattered, and that drew this response* from the Parliamentary Library.

“Section 70 of the My Health Records Act 2012 enables the System Operator (ADHA) to ‘use or disclose health information’ contained in an individual’s My Health Record if the ADHA ‘reasonably believes that the use or disclosure is reasonably necessary’ to, among other things, prevent, detect, investigate or prosecute any criminal offence, breaches of a law imposing a penalty or sanction or breaches of a prescribed law; protect the public revenue; or prevent, detect, investigate or remedy ‘seriously improper conduct’”, the library's analysis stated.

The publication continued: “it represents a significant reduction in the legal threshold for the release of private medical information to law enforcement. Currently, unless a patient consents to the release of their medical records, or disclosure is required to meet a doctor’s mandatory reporting obligations (e.g. in cases of suspected child sexual abuse), law enforcement agencies can only access a person’s records (via their doctor) with a warrant, subpoena or court order.”

This can be required not with a court order, the Library said, since the legislation “only requires a reasonable belief that disclosure of a person’s data is reasonably necessary.”

Minister Hunt stuck to his guns, saying the “error” in the library's analysis is the “absolute, unconditional policy and practice of the Digital Health Agency” is to implement data access “to the standard of a court order”.

Hunt played the 'blame the previous government' cards, saying the wording in the legislation was “put in place through the parliament in 2012 under a previous government,” but it was his government's implementation that's going to hold data release to a higher standard, and “that will remain the position, I think, forever.”

Bipartisanship starting to fray?

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has noticed public hostility to the rollout, and after years of MyHealth Record enjoying bipartisan support, he has asked the government to put the rollout on hold.

It's worth remembering that the MyHealth Record was instigated by a former Labor government, and as a result, in spite of its many troubles, the project has enjoyed solid support on both sides of Australian politics.


Oz digital health agency tightens medical record access as watchdog warns of crim honeypot


Shorten led with a nod in that direction, in a doorstop interview, saying: “The principle of having health records digitally stored is a good idea."

However, given the projects current problems: "It would be smart of the government to suspend the rollout of the MyHealth Record until all of the privacy concerns are actually addressed.”

AMA President Dr Tony Bartone, also a strong supporter of the MyHealth Record rollout, has noticed the privacy concerns.

After a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra, Dr Bartone said he is seeking a briefing from minister Hunt on the matter of data access.

He said the AMA's members will not tolerate anything that compromises doctor-patient confidentiality, and in spite of written undertakings from the minister and department that court orders are required for access, he wants to eliminate “any ambiguity” over this.

Dr Barone said he wants to seek a meeting with the minister “over the coming days”, and added that he intends to do "whatever it takes" to preserve doctor-patient relationships. ®

*Bootnote: Since this story was posted, the Parliamentary Library link has unaccountably began returning a 404 error. Thankfully, Wayback caught it before it was taken down.

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • North Korea pulled in $400m in cryptocurrency heists last year – report

    Plus: FIFA 22 players lose their identity and Texas gets phony QR codes

    In brief Thieves operating for the North Korean government made off with almost $400m in digicash last year in a concerted attack to steal and launder as much currency as they could.

    A report from blockchain biz Chainalysis found that attackers were going after investment houses and currency exchanges in a bid to purloin funds and send them back to the Glorious Leader's coffers. They then use mixing software to make masses of micropayments to new wallets, before consolidating them all again into a new account and moving the funds.

    Bitcoin used to be a top target but Ether is now the most stolen currency, say the researchers, accounting for 58 per cent of the funds filched. Bitcoin accounted for just 20 per cent, a fall of more than 50 per cent since 2019 - although part of the reason might be that they are now so valuable people are taking more care with them.

    Continue reading
  • Tesla Full Self-Driving videos prompt California's DMV to rethink policy on accidents

    Plus: AI systems can identify different chess players by their moves and more

    In brief California’s Department of Motor Vehicles said it’s “revisiting” its opinion of whether Tesla’s so-called Full Self-Driving feature needs more oversight after a series of videos demonstrate how the technology can be dangerous.

    “Recent software updates, videos showing dangerous use of that technology, open investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the opinions of other experts in this space,” have made the DMV think twice about Tesla, according to a letter sent to California’s Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), chair of the Senate’s transportation committee, and first reported by the LA Times.

    Tesla isn’t required to report the number of crashes to California’s DMV unlike other self-driving car companies like Waymo or Cruise because it operates at lower levels of autonomy and requires human supervision. But that may change after videos like drivers having to take over to avoid accidentally swerving into pedestrians crossing the road or failing to detect a truck in the middle of the road continue circulating.

    Continue reading
  • Alien life on Super-Earth can survive longer than us due to long-lasting protection from cosmic rays

    Laser experiments show their magnetic fields shielding their surfaces from radiation last longer

    Life on Super-Earths may have more time to develop and evolve, thanks to their long-lasting magnetic fields protecting them against harmful cosmic rays, according to new research published in Science.

    Space is a hazardous environment. Streams of charged particles traveling at very close to the speed of light, ejected from stars and distant galaxies, bombard planets. The intense radiation can strip atmospheres and cause oceans on planetary surfaces to dry up over time, leaving them arid and incapable of supporting habitable life. Cosmic rays, however, are deflected away from Earth, however, since it’s shielded by its magnetic field.

    Now, a team of researchers led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) believe that Super-Earths - planets that are more massive than Earth but less than Neptune - may have magnetic fields too. Their defensive bubbles, in fact, are estimated to stay intact for longer than the one around Earth, meaning life on their surfaces will have more time to develop and survive.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022