My Health Record legislation to match ADHA policy in government backdown

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt at the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney today

Mr Hunt also announced there would be changes to the deletion of records and also extended the opt-out period after meeting with doctors from the Australian Medical Association and College of General Practitioners on Tuesday night.

The My Health Record Act will be brought into line with the existing Australian Digital Health Agency policy.

Two key policy changes will be introduced to overcome privacy concerns about My Health Record, the embattled online service that stores a summary of your key health information.

AMA President Tony Bartone told Fairfax Media that he had enjoyed a "frank and constructive discussion" with Mr Hunt and welcomed the Minister's decision, which he said would allow patients to make "an informed choice".

The Australian Digital Health Agency, the system operator of My Health Record, had previously said its policy was not to release patient records to police and government without a court order.

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Every Australian will get a My Health Record that will reveal if they have had an abortion, a mental illness, sexually transmitted disease or drug addiction unless they opt out by October 15. "This will be enshrined in legislation".

"Mr Hunt's response also does nothing to address new concerns the My Health Record may risk the safety of women fleeing abusive partners", Labor's health spokeswoman Catherine King said on Wednesday.

Hunt said the changes will remove any doubt, and strengthen privacy provisions.

Doctor groups also welcomed the changes.

"Privacy of health records is vital, and it is good that the Minister has responded to these concerns and provided the necessary assurances", Mr Tambassis said.

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The Guild says pharmacists should be encouraging patients to actively use the My Health Record as a tool that enables them to better understand their health and empowers them to take greater personal responsibility for their own medical needs.

"When a patient steps into the office of one of our Global Positioning System, we want them to know that their health information is private and protected", wrote Dr. Harry Nespolon, president-elect of the RACGP.

It is understood that support for a redrafting of the legislation emerged within the Liberal Party after last weekend's byelections, in which Labor bolstered its position in part by attacking the Turnbull government's record on health.

National Rural Health Alliance CEO Mark Diamond said the changes address his organisation's fears that the records could be accessed by agencies such as the Tax Office and Centrelink without a court order.

"The government will also amend...legislation to ensure if someone wishes to cancel their record they will be able to do so permanently, with their record deleted from the system", Hunt said in the statement.

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In other changes the record will now be permanently deleted if Australians decide to cancel it instead of being kept on a government site for up to 130 years and a communications campaign explaining the roll out of the opt out record will be strengthened.

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