In a bid to address ongoing concerns surrounding the protection of confidential health records, the National E-Health Transition Authority (NeHTA) has released a privacy blueprint which is open for public comment until the end of February, 2007.
The blueprint, which is for the Unique Healthcare Identifiers (UHI) program, provides a plan of action to overcome privacy concerns that have stalled the federal government's e-health initiatives.
The goal is to implement a single, national approach to identifying individuals and healthcare providers for communication purposes.
The UHI Service is responsible for the allocation and maintenance of personal and provider identification has two sub sections, the Individual Healthcare Identifier (IHI) and the Healthcare Provider Identifier (HPI).
The IHI will only be used to identify individuals for the purposes of healthcare. The HPI is a unique number identifying every single one of the 400,000 healthcare providers in Australia and is expected to be more reliable than using health practitioner names and addresses.
The privacy blueprint is basically a plan of action for addressing privacy issues that will flow onto management strategies. It includes identifying the privacy issues and risks, developing strategies for privacy management, undertaking privacy impact assessments and developing ongoing privacy management tools like policies and information notices.
According to NeHTA documents, the blueprint is "part UHI Service overview; part discussion paper and part outline of NeHTA's privacy assessment process".
Dr Ian Reinecke, CEO of NeHTA, said the UHI Service will only be successful if it meets community expectations regarding privacy.
"The UHI Service is a critical step in reforming outdated communication practices in health," Dr Reinecke said.
"Studies have shown a clear link between avoidable patient deaths and poor communication and record keeping by the health sector.
"Patient confidence and trust in better communication practices, however, is built upon a strong privacy foundation."
The privacy blueprint is available for comment until February 28 and can be viewed at www.nehta.gov.au.