Government agrees to change My Health Record

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The Turnbull government says it will make changes to legislation enabling the My Health Record in response to privacy concerns.

Health minister Greg Hunt has confirmed the government will amend the My Health Record Act to strengthen safeguards to protect security and certainty of personal medical records.

Mr Hunt said he does not believe there are any issues with the existing legislation but confirmed the government would make changes to explicitly allow the deletion of records and restrict government agencies' access to patient data.

Police and government agencies will now require a court order to access patient data without their consent.

He announced the changes, including a likely one-month extension in the opt-out period, following a meeting with the AMA and RACGP.

Under the changes, people will be able to withdraw from My Health Record after the opt-out period ends and all information will be deleted. 

Under the original plan, some basic information about all records would have been kept for up to 130 years, even if a patient requested its deletion.

"The Digital Health Agency's policy is clear and categorical — no documents have been released in more than six years and no documents will be released without a court order," said Mr Hunt in a statement.

"This will be enshrined in legislation. This change to the My Health Record Act will therefore remove any ambiguity on this matter." 

The changes were backed by the Consumers Health Forum.

"Although the Digital Health Agency’s policy is clear and categorical that no documents have been released in more than six years and no documents will be released without a court order, enshrining this provision in legislation adds clarity and certainty to MHR safeguards," said CHF CEO Leanne Wells.

“MHR will only succeed in reaching critical mass in terms of its reach and effectiveness if Australians - both consumers and clinicians - can trust that patient information is secure and is seen only by those authorised to see it.

“These changes are important. The MHR system is in place and the more it is used the more it should evolve and improve over time based on consumer and clinician experience with it."

Ms Wells said the CHF will next week launch a series of consumer-focussed webinars on the My Health Record "because we believe a well-informed public is a key to the success of MHR."