Government may be forced into My Health Record backdown

The federal government may be forced to stop its rollout of controversial My Health Record site, after the head of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) vowed to do "whatever it takes" to protect patient privacy ahead of a meeting with Health Minister Greg Hunt.

AMA President Dr Tony Bartone said he was concerned about people's privacy and promised to ensure any “ambiguity” over the conditions under which personal information could be handed over to authorities without a court order was resolved.

"Anything that gets in the way of the trust, the faith in the system by doctors will be seen as a deal breaker and be dealt with appropriately," he said at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

"The AMA holds the privacy and security of its patients' medical records in the most paramount and highest esteem and seriousness," Dr Bartone said. "Anything that will compromise that will not be [tolerated] by our members."

There are growing concerns over the security of the My Health Record site, and the fact that patient information can be handed to police, courts and the Australian Tax Office, without a warrant.

Health Minister Greg Hunt, who will meet with Dr Bartone next week, has maintained that patient records cannot be accessed without a court order, because of the "strict policy" governing the scheme.

Mr Hunt said on Wednesday that My Health Record had been in operation for six years and that "not one record has been released to the police in that time".

"They cannot and will not release without a court order," he said.

Dr Bartone said he had sought assurances from the Health Minister, his department and the Australian Digital Health Agency, about the public’s privacy concerns.

"I will ensure that any ambiguity in the differences between what the legislation says and what is the practicality of the interpretation, including the assurances, are crystal clear and there can be no ambiguity for our members or the public going forward," he said.

Dr Bartone, who broadly supports My Health Record but is not yet enrolled himself, said it was essential to grow the system "to a point of maturity" by boosting the number of patient records uploaded.

"And until we have enough people with a record, and until we have enough providers
uploading information ... it's going to be stuck at too little, too late," he said.

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