Draft e-health Bill tough on privacy

Draft e-health Bill tough on privacy

Summary: Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has today aired the exposure draft of the legislation behind the government's personally controlled e-health records (PCEHR) project, while outlining tough penalties for those found in breach of the proposed privacy provisions.

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Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has today aired the exposure draft of the legislation behind the government's personally controlled e-health records (PCEHR) project, while outlining tough penalties for those found in breach of the proposed privacy provisions.

The 74-page draft legislation (PDF) was published today, and specifies how Australians can sign up for, control and restrict their own e-health record. The draft also detailed the role of a national operator — who will run customer and provider access portals, core services and the National Repositories Service in a dual-datacentre environment — and revealed the harsh penalties for those found breaching patient confidentiality on the system.

"Using a combination of legislation, security and technology, backed by strict penalties for infringements, we will give patients peace of mind that their sensitive medical information is safe and secure," Roxon said in a statement today.

"For the first time patients will have control over who accesses their information — and further they will know who has accessed their medical records, and the exact time that record was accessed."

Penalties for the infringement of a patient's privacy clock in at a whopping $66,000 per record breached, with penalties set to stack on top of each other if more than one record is accessed.

Such strong penalties mean that any potential data breach at a healthcare provider level would likely see millions of dollars in fines doled out by the government.

Roxon said that patients will have ultimate control over their e-health records, with the system set to allow them to track who accessed their record and when, and upgrade privacy settings accordingly. Patients can also make and share notes with their practitioners.

"Patients can upgrade their privacy settings to suit their needs, for example, giving their GP access to their entire records, but more limited access to their dentist.

"Doctors, or other health professionals, will be the only people allowed to create medical notes on the file. Patients can add their own notes about their general health but cannot make medical notes," Roxon said.

The release of the draft legislation follows a timeline issued by Roxon's department last month. According to the timeline, the government expects to pass the PCEHR legislation by April next year.

The exposure draft of the legislation is open for comment until 28 October.

Topics: Health, Government, Government AU, Privacy, Security

Luke Hopewell

About Luke Hopewell

A fresh recruit onto the tech journalism battlefield, Luke Hopewell is eager to see some action. After a tour of duty in the belly of the Telstra beast, he is keen to report big stories on the enterprise beat. Drawing on past experience in radio, print and magazine, he plans to ask all the tough questions you want answered.

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