Almost 300,000 Australians cancelled their My Health Record by mid-November

Although the government would not reveal the latest opt-out numbers, it did reveal where people have cancelled an existing My Health Record.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

By November 11, 2018, nearly 300,000 Australians had removed themselves from the My Health Record system and cancelled their electronic medical record.

Responding to Senate Estimates Questions on Notice, the Department of Health broke down the final 288,000 number by state, giving just over 96,000 citizens in New South Wales; 66,500 in Queensland; 61,000 in Victoria; and 24,500 and 21,000 in Western and South Australia, respectively; followed by the ACT with 8,000; Tasmania with 7,500; and the Northern Territory with just under 2,000 cancellations. Approximately 1,200 cancellations were not attributed to any state.

Many other statistics to do with My Health Record, including an updated number of opt outs, were met with a standard response.

"As the opt-out period has now been extended to 31 January 2019, the Australian Digital Health Agency is unable to provide a response to this question," the Department of Health's boilerplate read.

Consequently, the number of known opt-outs remains the 1.147 million from the middle of October.

Also see: My Health Record accounts reach 6.45m as opt-out deadline draws near

The number of cancellations is up significantly on the almost 43,000 reported as of July 27, 2018. Many people who wanted to opt out found that they could not, since a record was already created for them.

On the issue of the number of complaints concerning My Health Record to be expected once all Australians are given a record, the department said the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) took its existing number and multiplied it by five.

Thus ADHA is expecting 275 complaints through its feedback form, 60 named officer complaints, 950 general complaints, and 275 technical complaints. General complaints and complaints to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) are expected to be handled within 14 days; a complaint to the Ombudsman is expected within two weeks of transfer; and all other complaints are typically handled within 20 business days, the Department of Health said.

"The Australian Digital Health Agency currently has four staff managing problems and complaints. The agency will hire an additional four people to manage problems and complaints for the My Health Record system once records are created," Health said.

"This team is complemented by a consumer call centre (that operates 24/7) that can assist with consumer enquiries. This call centre will be resourced to some 100 staff with the capability to scale up as required."

Fronting Senate Estimates in October, the Department of Health disclosed that in the six years the system has been operating, it has received one request for health records from law enforcement, but no records were released to Tasmanian Police. In response to Questions on Notice, Health added that the request took place in April 2016, and that no court order was received by the department.

Read: Why Australia is quickly developing a technology-based human rights problem (TechRepublic)

In a number of healthcare provider tracking surveys conducted in April to May and July to August last year, the department said the only area to see variation was regarding privacy and security, but to its mind, the government had sorted it out.

"Statistically significant changes occurred in questions relating to perceptions about the privacy and security of the system," Health said.

"The Minister for Health announced legislative changes to strengthen privacy, and further polling has seen these trends reversing. It is expected this sentiment will continue to increase now that the legislation has been amended to strengthen privacy."

In December, ADHA reported 42 data breaches in 2017-18, but said there had been "no purposeful or malicious attacks compromising the integrity or security of the My Health Record system".

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