Australians will now have an extra month to opt out of the My Health Record, after Health Minister Greg Hunt made further amendments to the controversial system.
The original 15 October deadline has now formally been extended to 15 November after Hunt originally indicated these changes last week.
“The Turnbull Government has today extended the opt-out period for My Health Record by an extra month to 15 November 2018, as was announced last week,” Hunt said in a statement on Friday.
“This was a key request from the Australian Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners and gives Australians more time to consider their options as we strengthen the 2012 My Health Record legislation.”
Alongside the extension of the opt-out date, Hunt also formalised changes to the legislation which will now allow users to permanently erase their record if they so choose.
“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 said.
“This means any Australian will be able to opt-out of the system permanently, at any time in the future, with their record deleted for good.”
Under the original legislation, some data had the possibility of being kept for up to 130 years.
The announcement also confirmed changes to the legislation that require a court order in order to release any information from the system.
“The Australian Digital Health Agency’s policy is clear and categorical – no documents have been released in more than six years and no documents will be released without a court order. This will be enshrined in legislation.”
Hunt also attacked recent comments made by unions urging people to opt-out due to the risk of employers being able to access the records of workers.
“As the Australian Digital Health Agency has already stated, contrary to incorrect claims made by unions this week, under the Healthcare Identifiers Act 2010, specifically subsection 14(2), healthcare providers cannot be authorised to collect, use or disclose a healthcare identifier, and as a consequence access a patient’s My Health Record, for employment and insurance purposes,” said Hunt.
“Under the Act it is expressly prohibited and using or disclosing a healthcare identifier without authority is an offence and subject to severe penalties, including two years in jail and a fine of $126,000.”