While Australians are sorting out their private health insurance arrangements, with the introduction of private health insurance reforms this month, they also should take the time to look at their My Health Record to ensure they have the right privacy and data settings.
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has released new resources to inform people about protecting their privacy and controlling settings in their My Health Record.
The My Health Record is an online summary of Australians’ health information, such as medicines, any allergies and medical history. Following a period when people could choose to opt-out, the majority of Australians now have one.
According to the latest figures from the Australian Digital Health Agency, the participation rate in the My Health Record is 90.1 per cent and a national opt-out rate of 9.9 per cent, calling into question if people actually know that they have a record.
The Australian Privacy Foundation’s health committee chair, Bernard Robertson-Dunn says: “The government has made no attempt to advertise the fact that 90 per cent of the Australian population is registered and what they need to do about it.”
With nearly all Australians remaining in the system, the record will be activated on their next visit to a doctor or healthcare professional.
The OAIC recommends that all Australians in the system to take control of their record by actioning the following steps:
- set access controls to the level of privacy that you prefer;
- change what’s uploaded to your My Health Record;
- choose whether to include your Medicare details;
- check your access history regularly for any unexpected access; and
- exercise your privacy rights.
Robertson-Dunn says: “If someone doesn’t know that they have a My Health Record then it is difficult to exercise those controls. They need a certain level of computer literacy, access to computers and internet and to make MyGov account.”
While this may pose as a problem for Australians that have do not have easy internet access, there are additional education materials to assist people.
The Australian Digital Health Agency says that they are working with over 18 consumer peak organisations to ensure education materials are tailored for vulnerable groups in the community, including people with low digital literacy.
The OAIC suggests that Australians should pay extra attention to the access settings on the record in order to control which healthcare organisations can see the record.
For extra protection against personal data breaches, there is the option to limit the access of healthcare providers to particular documents that are on your record.
Robertson-Dunn says that it is important to note that anything that a patient puts on the main shared health summary document cannot be hidden.
An Australian Digital Health Agency spokesperson says: “The shared health summary can only be authored by your authorised and registered GP. A person can delete a shared health summary at any time.”
Consumers can receive notifications via text message or email for a number of things, such as when a healthcare provider or a nominated representative opens your record.
Australians need to be aware that when seeing a medical professional, they will be able to see all areas of the record, not just what they are treating.
Robertson-Dunn says: “The data is available in other places and draws some of this information together and informs aspects of a person’s health that may not be relevant to the health care that they are receiving.”
Under an emergency situation, healthcare providers, the Australian Digital Health Agency and other parties are allowed to collect, use and disclose information in your My Health Record under the My Health Records Act 2012.
The record can be deleted at any time and all records that have previously been cancelled will also be permanently deleted from the system.