Is your My Health patient record safe in their hands?

It turns out we have until 15 October to opt out of the My Health Record initiative.

This means you’ll have to take action to withhold your consent. Otherwise, the Australian Government will make a permanent health record about you, which will be shared with doctors, hospitals and other health practitioners by the end of the year.

The risk that you might be identified later from your personal data once it is made available to third parties is a compelling reason to opt out. Not to mention the government’s sterling track record of managing critical data assets: the breach of Medicare data that resulted in patient card numbers being sold on the darknet, or the 2016 census fiasco. But they’re not the only reasons.

The My Health Record initiative was first released in July 2012 as an “opt-in”. Yet when given a chance to opt-in, hardly any of us did so.

Here’s the link to the government’s own evaluation results. If you don’t have time to read its 354 pages, the trial showed that only around two per cent of people opted out. Based on these results, it’s almost certain the government will succeed in signing us up to the My Health Record program.

The question I’ve been pondering is: as a patient, am I more at risk in an emergency from a triage nurse not knowing my medical history? Or, am I more at risk by the chance of some criminal knowing it? For me, the latter is the biggest health hazard.

And in 10 years’ time when the database of health information is much more valuable and ripe for selling to the highest bidder – just as has been suggested with the NSW Titles office and the ASIC register – who (beyond the stated doctors, hospitals and health practitioners) will have access to my data?

Personally speaking, I tend to bridle a little at anyone who shows the crazed levels of inclusiveness Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt is displaying. He ought to get himself a stick-on pencil moustache, dark glasses and a white military uniform with lots of medals and a set of fancy epaulettes. After all, if he’s going to behave like a Third World leader, he might as well look like one.

Given the labyrinthine way the state machine has gone about this, I suspect it’s something it has wanted to do for ages, and now thinks it has the excuse for. And I’m not entirely alone in this view.

The Australian Privacy Foundation’s position is: This is the ‘nanny state’ gone mad, a huge and risky invasion of your privacy. The government cannot persuade Australians and their GPs that creating a My Health Record is useful or safe – possibly because there is good reason to conclude it is neither – so they cheat by just giving themselves the right to do it anyway, unless you say no before the looming, newly-announced date.”

I know important things are doomed to be boring. But given that the federal government timed its press release to be snuck out smack-bang in the midst of wall-to-wall Royal wedding coverage, they apparently hope you miss this one-time opportunity to protect your medical information from a Cambridge Analytica-style data heist.

If you do not want to be registered for a My Health Record without your express consent, you can register to be informed when and how to opt-out by going to this link: https://www.myhealthrecord.gov.au/for-you-your-family/howtos/opt-out