The federal opposition has announced that it will lead a "comprehensive" Senate inquiry into Australia's My Health Record, concerned mainly with the opt-out element of the online medical file.
In a joint statement from Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare Catherine King and Senator for New South Wales Jenny McAllister, Labor said it remains deeply concerned that the government's "bungled" rollout of the My Health Record opt-out period has "severely undermined" public trust in such an important reform.
While the opposition's focus is on fixing the opt-out period that began over a month ago, it has once again called on the Coalition to suspend the My Health Record rollout "until this mess can be cleaned up".
The federal government automatically signed Australians up to My Health Record, initially giving individuals that wished to opt out of the service from July 16 through October 15, 2018 to do so.
However, last week the government extended the period for cancelling the digital medical file until November 15, 2018, with Minister for Health Greg Hunt saying the extension was granted following a request from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Royal College of General Practitioners.
He also said delaying the opt-out period gives Australians "more time to consider their options as we strengthen the 2012 My Health Record legislation".
"The government will amend the 2012 legislation to ensure if someone wishes to cancel their record they will be able to do so permanently, with their record deleted from the system forever," Hunt explained.
On the first day of the opt-out window, 20,000 people chose not have a digital health record.
"Labor has long supported an electronic health record system. We believe it has the capacity to revolutionise health care delivery, but we also recognise it needs a high degree of public support in order to be successful," the joint statement released on Tuesday by King and McAllister said.
"While the government has agreed to a number of changes demanded by Labor and doctors' groups, including an extension of the opt-out period and a new public information campaign, more needs to be done."
The opposition will this week ask the crossbench to support a reference to the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee, which also inquired into the 2016 Census failure and the sale of Medicare details on the "dark web".
It is expected the inquiry will review the laws, regulations, and rules that underpin the My Health Record.
It will also examine the government's decision to shift from an opt-in system to an opt-out system and essentially why the Coalition changed the system from the way it was designed under Labor.
Despite promises from both Hunt and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, there is still serious concern over the security and integrity of My Health Record, in particular who has access to the medical information of Australians, and Labor's inquiry is expected to probe a range of privacy and security concerns, including the adequacy of the system's log-in procedures and default settings.
"The inquiry will look at the adequacy of the government's public information campaign, and the potential that commercial interests -- including health insurers -- could be given access to My Health data," the joint statement continued.
The committee will be asked to report before the end of the opt-out period in mid-November.
No, Minister. It's not just about law enforcement access to digital health records. The Australian government needs to address all the concerns. A media circus in a playground won't help.
Medical records to be released only with a court order, and a promise of permanent deletion upon record cancellation, were announced on Tuesday night.
The ADHA says it'll refuse access to medical records without a court order or warrant. But the law allows that policy to change at any time.
Those choosing to opt-out of the My Health Record service will still have their data visible if they reactivate their account.