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My Health Record – Is it as Secure as Promised?

If you read our information guide on the My Health Record, My Health Record (“MHR”) is an online summary of your key health information, established by the My Health Records Act 2012 (“the Act”). In that summary your health information is intended to be viewed securely online, from anywhere at any time. It was also intended to enable Healthcare providers to gain access to your MHR when they need, to such as when you are in an accident or emergency.

If you didn’t opt out of MHR, the MHR gathered all your health information from you, your healthcare providers and Medicare. This information can include medical conditions, medication, allergies, test or scan results and treatments all accessible within the one place.

In our guide we speculated that this open access of information could create new risks from the online transmission and storage of personal information in the MHR system.  By having this system easily accessible by storing it online, leaves your information vulnerable to snoopers, criminals and hackers. This risk could also extend to your children’s information as well.

Recently, it was reported that a number of participants had another person’s medical details incorrectly entered into their own records. In other instances, some records had been viewed by fraudsters, and in another a child had the incorrect parent assigned to their records.

There have also been a number of breaches reported to the Office of the Australian Information Commission.

If errors like this can happen, is it really a reliable source of information for doctors when you have been in an accident or emergency?

There have been fears raised about perpetrators of family violence being able to become an authorised representative of a child’s MHR. Amendments were passed to the Act on 26 November 2018 providing that a person cannot become an authorised representative of a child’s MRH if the life, health or safety of the child or another person would be put at risk. Unfortunately, this can only be identified by Court order, which means that if a person has not applied to the Court for domestic violence protection orders, there remains a risk to their, or their child’s safety.

Online access to a child’s MHR would provide information about the location of a child and family and/or their treatment providers and the nature and date of treatment. Family lawyers in particular should be aware of this when advising clients. There may be risk of family violence their clients and/or their children if the other parent were to gain access to the health record information or location revealed through the MHR system.

The opt out period has now been extended to 31 January 2019, after which all children and adults will have an electronic health care record created for them. Everyone should consider their own personal circumstances and decide whether the MHR is appropriate for them.