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Fallout from health IT projects continues

Paul Brislen, Editor. 26 July 2018, 7:25 am

Australia's track record with tech projects continues to under-perform with a growing backlash to its latest move - the introduction of electronic health records.

Australian health minister Greg Hunt says he expects up to 10% of eligible patients to opt out of the MyHealth Record programme, following widespread concerns about privacy issues. 

It's not only patients who are concerned - doctors and health care practitioners are expressing concern over possible interference in the doctor-patient relationship, and privacy advocates are pointing out that the rules governing the programme seemingly allow police to access medical records without needing a warrant or other court order.

MyHealth Records is a patient record system that has been in place for six years, but which will automatically generate records for every Australian unless they opt out by 15 October. Several social media campaigns are underway warning Australians to check their records for accuracy after mistakes have been revealed in records. Patient records in the system cannot be deleted for 30 years.

Vision Australia, an advocacy group for visually impaired Australians, has warned its members to opt out as the service doesn't appear to meet a number of vision accessibility requirements, making it impossible for its users to verify data or to make use of the service.

The Australian government has also come under fire from the UN for its privacy rules during a panel discussion at an Australian Human Rights Commission's technology conference in Sydney. The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to privacy Professor Joseph Cannataci suggested Australia needed to beef up its domestic privacy laws before it tells other nations how to run their own country.

CIO Magazine quotes Cannataci saying, "In order to be able to set an example on the international front you can no longer be in a position where Australia [is] without a bill of rights, without remedies for privacy on the domestic front, without a whole range of safeguards which exist in other places," something he says the Australian Law Reform Commission has also recommended. However, the Australian government rejected such suggestions.

Meanwhile, Singapore's largest health care provider, SingHealth, is reeling following the discovery of a data breach which may affect as many as one quarter of Singaporeans. 

SingHealth reports that "non-medical personal data of 1.5 million patients" had been "accessed and copied", including their national identification number, address, and date of birth.


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