Fed Govt amends Healthcare Identifiers Bill

Bows to public and industry pressure on privacy and data security

The Federal Government has bowed to public and industry pressure, proposing new amendments that would address privacy and data security-related issues associated with its Healthcare Identifiers (HI) Bill.

According to Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, the amendments will make the legislation safer and more secure and increase parliamentary oversight of the Healthcare Identifiers Service.

Specific changes to legislation include greater clarity for healthcare organisations in how they would liaise with the new Healthcare Identifiers Service, and streamlined administrative requirements for healthcare providers that would maintain appropriate processes, monitoring and enforce penalties for unauthorised access.

It would also include a new right-of-review provision for healthcare providers without healthcare identifiers in relation to some decisions.

The Federal Government has also snubbed two Coalition recommended amendments which it claims would have made it difficult for the Healthcare Identifiers Service to operate or are contrary to the intent of the legislation and have not been adopted.

As previously reported by <i>Computerworld Australia</i>, the HI Bill proposes that unique healthcare identifiers be in full operation within 18 months, spearheaded by Medicare Australia. Each Australian will have a unique record held in a single national database that can be accessed by different health professionals.

The new system is said to improve communication between pharmacies and doctors and introduce transparency into patient medical histories, yet there are concerns that the government was disregarding potential privacy concerns or governance issues raised by the creation of healthcare identifiers.

In May, Opposition Treasurer, Joe Hockey, attacked the Government over its proposed HI Bill stating that the Rudd Government had not delivered on its healthcare identifier initiative.

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