Inquiry backs legislation for 'opt-out' eHealth record

Privacy group call for opt-out to be dumped

A parliamentary inquiry has endorsed a government bill that will enable the national eHealth system to potentially be shifted to an 'opt-out' model.

Health minister Sussan Ley in September introduced the Health Legislation Amendment (eHealth) Bill 2015.

The bill implements recommendations from the 2013 review of the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR), including renaming the record to 'My Health Record'.

The bill will allow the minister to apply opt-out participation to particular areas, which will enable trials of new approaches intended to boost participation in the system.

Ley last month revealed details of the opt-out trials.

A report from the Senate's Community Affairs Legislation Committee was tabled yesterday in the upper house and recommends that the bill be passed.

The report's only other recommendation was that the government take on board advice from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner in relation to developing a public information campaign in areas where the opt-out approach will be trialled.

The OAIC's submission (PDF) made a number of recommendations including that a public awareness campaign should give individuals enough information to make an informed decision about whether to participate in the system and the option to opt-out be clearly and prominently presented.

The privacy watchdog raised a number of concerns over the bill and revamped eHealth record system, including the absence of a process for creating pseudonymous records. Pseudonymous eHealth records are possible under the current system.

"Neither the Bill nor the Explanatory Memorandum addresses how healthcare recipients who wish to obtain such a record would do so under an opt-out system," the OAIC's submission said.

"It is also not clear how recipients who have already registered for a pseudonymous record will be impacted under an opt-out system: for example, would an identified record automatically be created for them?"

The OAIC also held concern over the opt-out process for minors and adults lacking capacity to manage their own records.

In its submission (PDF), the Australian Privacy Foundation reiterated many of its previously expressed concerns about the My Health Record system.

The shift to opt-out should be dumped, in the APF's view.

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