The Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee (‘the Senate Committee’) issued, on 12 October 2018, its report on the My Health Records Amendment (Strengthening Privacy) Bill 2018 (‘the Amendment Bill’) as part of its inquiry on the same. In particular, the Senate Committee addressed key issues surrounding the My Health Records Act 2012 (‘the Act’) and outlined that the proposed amendments, which introduce provisions on the destruction and disclosure of information, would strengthen the privacy framework of the My Health Record system.
Michael Gorton and Craig Subocz, Principal and Senior Associate respectively at Russell Kennedy Pty Ltd, told DataGuidance, ”The driving force behind the inquiry into the Act was the public concern over the security of the information being held in the system and the capacity of third parties to access this information without adequate checks and balances in place. The purpose of the Amendment Bill was to address these privacy concerns, [however], it is unlikely that the current legislation will be the last word regarding privacy and the My Health Record system.”
The Senate Committee considered the proposed amendment which would require system operators to destroy the health records of a recipient who has cancelled their registration. In particular, it noted that while there may be practical difficulties in relation to the deletion of such data, due to the sensitive nature of the information, it is appropriate for healthcare recipients to control how the data is accessed and stored. Furthermore, with regard to the authorised disclosure provision requiring system operators to obtain a court order before disclosing My Health Record information to law enforcement or government agencies, the Senate Committee highlighted that this would strengthen recipients’ confidence in the privacy of the system, which it deemed vital to ensuring its overall success.
The driving force behind the inquiry into the Act was the public concern over the security of the information being held in the system and the capacity of third parties to access this information
Gorton and Subocz highlighted, ”The proposed amendments regarding the destruction of health information would be a marked improvement over the current scenario. [However], there is a concern, as expressed by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, that an individual who has cancelled their registration and then re-enabled it at a later date would have gaps in their information. The proposed amendments deal with this, to some extent, as well as the sensitivity among the wider public as to the confidentiality and protection of their health information.
The Senate Committee outlined that, while the My Health Record system has the potential to benefit a large number of Australians, its success depends on the confidence of the public in the system’s capacity to protect their information. As a result, the Senate Committee added that it commends the proposed amendments, and stated that, if passed, the Amendment Bill would significantly strengthen the privacy provisions of the My Health Record system.
Gorton and Subocz concluded, ”It is likely that the Act will now be amended in accordance with the Amendment Bill as it is currently framed. We would expect that the Government will then resuscitate efforts to promote the system to the public to encourage greater uptake by reducing the number of people opting out [of it]. [The Act’s success] will largely depend on whether the general public think that the amendments adequately address the concerns previously raised regarding the privacy of information held on the system.”
ANGELA POTTER Privacy Analyst