How Effective is the New Legislation on Our Health Record?

HOW EFFICIENT IS THE NEW LEGISLATION ON MY HEALTH RECORD?

Introduction

On 31st July, Greg Hunt, Minister for Health announced a new legislation on My Health Record (Gribbin 2018). He introduced into Federal Parliament’s House of Representatives  My Health Records Amendment  Bill 2018 (Timebase 2018). With the introduction of this legislation, a patient’s health records cannot be accessed by the police or government agencies without a court order, the records of a person who cancelled his My Health Record application will be permanently deleted and a patient’s personal information will be protected (Computerworld 2018). Just how efficient is this new legislation?

My health record background information

With the advancement in technology, the health sector has been computerised. My Health Record, a system of digitally recording a patient’s health information has been used and will continue to be used in Australia (Australian Digital Health Agency 2018, My Health Record 2018). ADHA is the system operator of My Health Record in Australia (Australian Digital Health Agency 2018, My Health Record 2018). This system stores records of the patient’s health information like immunisation, pathology results, organ donation and PBS information. There is also a record of the patient’s health summary and personal health notes. Those in support of it mention that it reduces medical errors while those against it raise concerns of the extent of privacy and security the system offers. Positive views have been given by Australians and the videos of feedback from the citizens are in the Australian Digital Health Agency website ,2018.Some of the benefits of the system include: the system can be accessed nationally , a record of the medical history of a patient helps medical practitioners to treat the patient’s better especially for patient’s who don’t have specific doctors .A patient is in control of his health records and can thus say what can be uploaded in the system, what stays there and who can see the records(Hanna et al. 2016). Continuous updates in the system will ensure that the medical practitioners fully understand a patient’s health in detail. The system is particularly useful in times of emergency. The doctors can study the patient’s medical history and wisely decide on the medical procedure to be followed.

Legislation already in place

The legislation in place for the digital health services include: My Health Records Act, Healthcare Identifies Act and Australian Policy Principles in Privacy Act. According to ABC News (2018), the Minister mentions that the current legislation was sufficient as it was, but he is willing to make the changes as proposed in the new legislation.

Changes made by the new reform

According to TimeBase 2018, the new legislation is intended to “strengthen the privacy framework of My Health Record system”. The bill was introduced to address the concerns by critics on the security and privacy of the records stored in the My Health Record system (Time Base 2018).

Deletion of records

In the current legislation, My Health Records Act 2012, a patient’s basic information is stored for up to 130 years even when he or she had opted out. In the new legislation a patient’s health records are deleted fully once he or she opts out. The only data which will be retained is the person’s name and healthcare identifier and the day the cancellation takes effect(ZD Net 2018).No other personal records will be stored in the system.

Release of records

In the current legislation, any government agencies can access your health records (Stilgherrian 2018). However, the new legislation states that a court order is required before the police or government agencies can access the records(World Socialist Web Site 2018). The minister assures the citizens that in the past six years no document has been released and in future none will be released without a court order (Williams 2018).

Academic views

Prictor, Hemsley, Taylor and McCarthy (2018) argue that if the new legislation is passed, My Health Record with have a greater privacy protection than other medical records. If the court grants permission to the police to view the health records of the patient, they will be able to access a patient’s records and there is a risk of disclosure of information which is not relevant (Prictor et al. 2018).

Merkel (2018) mentions that the deletion of a patient’s records as provided by the new legislation is not as easy as it sounds. He mentions that even if data is deleted from active database being used, it can find in the systems backup which can retain information for a particular time. Removal of data from the backup is not easy. Merkel (2018) further argues that there is uncertainty when it comes to the issue of whether the police or government agencies can access the backup data also when granted permission by the court to view a patient’s health records.

Arnold, Kemp and Vaile (2018) argue that My Health Record system is not a clinically medical report. This is because it is neither up to date nor comprehensive. The three scholars argue that due to this factor, the health records may be of no help and thus a distraction in case of an emergency. Digital storage of information is risky because it may be easy bait for criminals, hackers and even shoppers (Arnold, Kemp and Vaile 2018). Identity theft is also a risk. The three scholars therefore advice Australians to opt out of the system now.

Jim Gillespie (2018), another scholar, argues that the My Health Record system has more advantages than disadvantage and thus supports the system. According to him, the system could save a patient’s life in a case of emergency and a person is more informed and engaged in his personal health. However, he mentions that the system is challenging for the digital illiterates.

Critic (Problem)

As technology advances, cybercrimes increase. This poises a risk on My Health Record system. A patient’s health records are a target (Coventry and Branley   2018). This is due to the weaknesses in the existing technology and a history of  failure of complete eradication of cybercrimes (Coventry and Branley 2018).Cyber hackers  may hack the system and use a personal records of the patient( Arnold, Kemp & Bailey 2018).

It is crucial for the Australians to clearly informed about the system. No information which is not acknowledged by the public should be added to the records. According to Han in the Sydney Morning Herald (2018), My Health Record system can also store a patient’s genomic information. ‘The system is not ready to store such kind of information because it is too sensitive and risky’ (Sydney Morning Herald 2018).The Australian citizens were not informed about storage of this kind of data and thus this leads to lack of trust between the patient’s and the government. This is still not catered for in the new legislation.

Concerns have been raised on whether medical employers who have access to a patient’s health records can use the records to check the employee’s entire health records prior to employment. The Federal Government and the Australian Digital Health Agency have assured the patient’s that under the Healthcare Identifiers Act 2010 section 14(2), the healthcare providers were prohibited from collecting, using or disclosing a healthcare identifier number to a person’s My Health Record for employment and insurance purposes.

 

Conclusion

My new health record has been used and has many benefits. It helps the patients to keep track of their health status (My Health Record 2018).

The new legislation on My Health Record will increase the privacy of a patient’s records. The police and government agencies will not be able to access a patient’s records without a court order and a patient’s personal information will be deleted from the system once he or she opts out. However, there are still concerns about this new legislation. Complete deletion of personal data is not as easy as it seems because the health system has a backup storage for personal information. Australians are therefore not certain whether their details in the backup storage will be deleted and if not whether the police and government agencies will have access to these data once given a court order.

There are risks of cyber crimes that may affect the legislation. However, the legislation in place ensures a strict punishment of any person who would have committed a cybercrime in relation to My Health Record system (My Health Record 2018).

My Health Record system has more advantages than disadvantages. Only a small percentage of the Australian population have opted out of the system (Australian Digital Health Agency 2018, My Health Record 2018).

Summary.

 

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