Health record opt-out time extended to January as Government caves in

Grant Boone
November 16, 2018

The My Health Record opt-out date has been shifted from the 15 November 2018 to 31 January 2019, according to Shadow Health Minister Catherine King.

Australians will have an extra two-and-a-half months to opt-out out of the federal government's controversial My Health Record scheme after the Senate agreed to extend the opt-out window.

Hunt's comments came as reports emerged that the My Health Record website was down for the second time this month, meaning Australians could not successfully opt out of the scheme.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has defended the controversial My Health Record system.

The Labour government has been pushing to extend the opt-out period for 12 months.

It's not just your doctors who can see these health details; almost 700,000 health practitioners including your dietitian, podiatrist or occupational therapist can see these details if they are registered to use the system unless you set up access controls.

The online system is failing to process requests to opt out, directing visitors to call the My Health Record hotline, only to put them on hold for 45 minutes at a time before those calls ultimately drop out.

However, these changes have not yet been passed in parliament.

Without the minister's intervention, about 17 million Australians would have been automatically enrolled in the e-health system if they did not opt out by Thursday.

In response to the backlash, Minister Hunt announced in August plans to make changes so the records could not be accessed by police without a court order, and would be permanently deleted if cancelled by a user. The original deadline was also extended by one month earlier this year.

Interestingly, the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) revealed to the Senate on October 24 that an estimated 1,147,000 Australians had opted out.

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This information will be enough for anyone who sees the record to tell if you have a mental illness, are impotent, have a drug addiction or other sensitive health conditions.

Any registered health provider like your doctor, pharmacist, physiotherapist, nurse, diagnostic imaging and pathology practice, and other unidentified staff will be able to see your record.

Added to this uneasiness is the fact that these records could potentially be accessed by any number of healthcare professionals.

There will be regular security audits of My Health Record but any documents downloaded or created by a doctor could also be stored on their local IT system and the security of this will depend on their system.

"We are experiencing high demand, which has slowed the system down, and some people have experienced difficulties opting out this morning", the agency said.

As it stands the parents of teenagers will be able to access their children's My Health Record making it hard for children to keep private health issues they may wish to hide from their parents.

To opt out of My Health Record, you can either go the online route by visiting the My Health Record website or call 1800 723 471 and do it over the phone.

It started as an opt-in scheme - the Coalition government changed it to an opt-out.

It includes harsher penalties for people found guilty of improperly using the system, and better protections for victims of domestic violence.

In addition to worries that private health insurers may one day be able to access the data, family groups say the perpetrators of domestic violence might be able to find the addresses of former partners.

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