As the 15 November final opt-out date looms, the government’s controversial My Health Record has surged back into headlines in recent days.

It started on Tuesday morning when the opt-out helpline crashed, reportedly thanks to a late rush of Australians looking to get out of the system, according to Fairfax Media.

A spokesperson from the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) later stated the crash was due to a “minor technical error”, rather than an influx of calls.

The issue was resolved later that day.

It was not the first time Australians have encountered technical issues when trying to opt out, the system crashing back at the beginning of the opt-out period in July.

Changes made

On Wednesday, Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced “a stronger My Health Record”.

The amendments include:

  • Increased penalties for improper use of My Health Record (increased maximum criminal penalty from 2 years to 5 years jail)
  • Ensuring a person/parent cannot be the authorised representative of a minor if they have restricted access to the child, as a way of strengthening provisions around domestic violence
  • Prohibiting employers from requesting and using information in a My Health Record
  • Ensuring no health information or de-identifiable data will be released to private health insurers
  • Reinforcing the My Health Record’s status as a critical piece of national health infrastructure

The changes were made in response to the Senate Inquiry, but have yet to be passed into law.

“We have examined the recommendations from the Senate Inquiry, we have listened to concerns raised by a range of groups and My Health Record users and will move the following amendments to Labor’s original legislation to further strengthen the My Health Record Act,” Hunt said.

Hunt also signalled a review into whether parents should have default access to the records of 14-17-year olds. Currently, a person aged 14 and over can remove their parent’s access.

How many have opted out?

Last month, the ADHA told Senate estimates that 1,147,000 Australians had already opted out of the My Health Record.

This figure was accurate as of 19 October.

But with a late influx expected before the final opt-out date, this number is likely to significantly increase.

The ADHA has said it will not be releasing an updated figure before 15 November.

ADHA privacy boss quits

Just days after Minister Hunt unveiled the revamped My Health Record, the government was hit with another blow, with news of the ADHA’s director of privacy resigning.

Fairfax Media reported that Nicole Hunt had quit her role last month, due to privacy concerns not being taken seriously enough.

According to the reports, there will only be one dedicated privacy staff member at the ADHA as of December this year.