There is a new medical record system called My Health Record. It is an online database designed to keep all your medical records in one place, operated by the Australian Government. This article describes the benefits and risks to help you make an informed decision, and talks about how to opt out if you do not want a My Health Record.

Image of mobile phone showing My Health Record

Every Australian will have a My Health Record account set up, unless they choose not to have one. If you choose not to have a record you can opt out – the deadline to opt out is January 31, 2019.

If you want a My Health Record, you don’t need to do anything. Already, 6.3 million people have a My Health Record. There is now a new deadline (January 31, 2019) for people to opt out (to stop one being created).

A My Health Record will include:

  • Medicare records for up to two years
  • Prescriptions
  • Test or scan results
  • Medical conditions and treatment
  • Immunisations
  • Specialist referral letters
  • Hospital discharge summaries.

You can set up control features.

Once a record is created, you can access it online with a personal access code, where you can add, restrict access or ‘deactivate’ information and apply control features and monitor who has access to your record. However, in an emergency, or where your or another person’s safety is a concern, health workers can ask for any restricted access features to be lifted for 5 days.

You can also add personal health summaries, allergy information, care plan information, Indigenous status information and other personal information you choose to share. Importantly, you can delete your record permanently at any time.

What are the benefits?

Health staff can look at your records and information. When you go to a GP, clinic, hospital, pharmacist, dentist or use an ambulance, health care workers can see what’s been happening with your health. My Health Record may improve and support coordination of your care. It may reduce doubling up of tests, prevent drug-drug interactions from prescriptions, and save time in an emergency or where you are unable to communicate.

Health workers will add to your record after each visit, prescription, or test. If you change doctors, with your consent, all your test results and medical information can be available to your new doctor without the hassle of transferring your files. It also prevents health information getting lost.

What are the risks?

Unfortunately, people affected by viral hepatitis sometimes report that they experienced a change in the attitude of the health care workers and/or the way they are treated, compared to other people, after the health care workers got this information. This experience is called stigma and discrimination, and can affect people’s health and safety.

To protect your privacy and safety, you may have been going to one service, such as your usual GP for some things, and going to another health service, such as a sexual health clinic for other matters. My Health Record will share your medical records between all the health services you visit including GPs, dentists, pharmacists, clinics, and hospitals. If for example, your record shows you have been tested or treated for hepatitis B or hepatitis C, this information may be seen in your My Health Record by all of your health care workers.

The Government states the information in your My Health Record is securely held and cannot be accessed by anyone other than you (or people with your login details) and healthcare workers. Your information is not published online, it is not able to be searched for on the internet, and the Government has stated that your My Health Record data is unlikely to be stolen or hacked.

You can control who sees your records

If you have a record, you can control who views information by going online and changing your privacy settings or ‘deactivating’ data. However, if you ‘deactivate’ data, the information is not deleted, and a copy will be kept in the system. You can choose what is added to your record by clearly telling a healthcare service provider that you do not want your health information uploaded each time you visit them.

You can change your mind

The Government says Australians can delete their My Health Record permanently at any time.

Can other government departments or other people legally access your records

Changes passed by the Australian Parliament in late-November clarify that only the Agency, the Department of Health and the Chief Executive of Medicare (and no other government agency) can access the My Health Record system. The changes explicitly require law enforcement and other agencies to produce a court order to access information in My Health Records. They make clear that the system cannot be privatised or used for commercial purposes.

Some people may find their My Health Record places them at risk of stigma and discrimination or may cause safety issues. You may wish to carefully consider whether you want your health records held or shared if you:

  • have a criminal record or are affected by the criminal justice system
  • use or have used drugs
  • live with a lifelong transmissible condition such as HIV or hepatitis B
  • have or had hepatitis C
  • are not on treatment after it was recommended
  • are sexually active and test regularly for STIs
  • are or have been a sex worker
  • are transgender or intersex
  • are bisexual, lesbian or gay
  • have lived with mental health issues
  • have been pregnant or terminated a pregnancy
  • are a health care worker.

What to do if you do not wish to have a My Health Record

You can choose to opt out – the deadline to opt out is January 31, 2019.

If you have any doubt, opt out. You can create a My Health Record later if you change your mind. You can opt out online or by filling out a paper form.

You can register to opt out here: https://www.myhealthrecord.gov.au/for-you-your-family/howtos/opt-out

What to do if you do wish to have a My Health Record

If you choose to have a My Health Record, you don’t need to do anything and your records will automatically be uploaded. To view your My Health Record, you will need to create a myGov account https://my.gov.au/ and register for a My Health Record.

Australian Parliament strengthens the privacy protections

The Australian Parliament passed legislation (in late November) to strengthen privacy protections in My Health Records Act 2012 without debate or division.

The new legislation means that you can opt in or opt out of My Health Record at any time in your life. Records will be created for every Australian who wants one after 31 January 2019. After then, you can delete your record permanently at any time.

Briefly, the new legislation will:

  • Allow Australians to permanently delete their records, and any backups, at any time.
  • Explicitly prohibit access to My Health Records by insurers and employers.
  • Provide greater privacy for teenagers 14 years and over.
  • Strengthen existing protections for people at risk of family and domestic violence.
  • Clarify that only the Agency, the Department of Health and the Chief Executive of Medicare (and no other government agency) can access the My Health Record system.
  • Explicitly require law enforcement and other agencies to produce a court order to access information in My Health Records.
  • Make clear that the system cannot be privatised or used for commercial purposes.

This is backed up by harsher penalties and fines for inappropriate or unauthorised use of My Health Records.

Further information

Read more at the My Health Record at this website https://www.myhealthrecord.gov.au/

This page last updated 10 Dec 2018

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