(Australian Associated Press)
Australians are being reminded it is up to them whether or not they have an electronic medical record, as the “opt-out” deadline for My Health Record looms.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has stressed that people can join or leave the system at any time, despite a formal “opt-out” period ending on Thursday.
The end of the “opt-out” period means anyone who does not already have a record and has not said they don’t want one, will have one created for them.
“The great thing is, it’s every Australian’s choice,” Mr Hunt told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.
The deadline for opting-out was pushed back from November 15 to give time for stronger privacy measures for the system to pass parliament.
Under the changes, people found guilty of improper use of My Health Record will face up to five years’ jail, instead of two, and the maximum fine has more than doubled to $315,000.
Victims of domestic violence will be better protected, with abusive former partners banned from accessing their child’s records.
Private health insurers would will be kept further from the system’s data, being unable to access it even when it has been de-identified.
The refinements were enough to convince the Australian Medical Association to back the system, after campaigning for better protections.
Mr Hunt said he can guarantee no person’s My Health Record data would ever be wrongfully exposed.
“We listened to the community and we worked on adding additional safeguards and protections,” he said.
“Although there hadn’t been any significant issues, we wanted to provide that extra security and extra support.”
The system has been under development for more than 15 years and operational for six, with 6.4 million Australians already having a record.
Between July and October, 1.15 million Australians had opted-out and another almost 500,000 had opted-in to get a record created sooner.
Final figures for the opt-out period will be revealed after January 31.