Researchers at Victoria University (VU) in Melbourne are working on privacy algorithms which will be incorporated into a new electronic data system.
According to VU Centre for Applied Informatics director Professor Yanchun Zhang, the system will allow medical researchers to access and share electronic data without fear of privacy breaches.
“There have been many cases which show current systems are vulnerable to internal attack with staff accessing patient records they are not authorised to access,” he said.
In April 2014, an audit of Medicare's customer database found a small number of cases of 'intertwined' customer records where two people's records had been combined, giving rise to "privacy and clinical safety risks", according to an auditor-general report tabled at the time.
According to the Department of Human Services, 34 instances of 'intertwining' had been discovered since the department started maintaining records on the issue in 2011.
Professor Zhang received a $295,000 grant from the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Projects scheme for the project.
“Creating new privacy preserving algorithms in database federations will provide efficient data access yet block unauthorised access,” he said.
“The medical knowledge that can be mined once these barriers are removed will significantly improve the quality of healthcare in Australia.”
The three-year project worked with Next Online who contributed $150,000 towards the project.
Victoria University has been contacted for more information.