The following is the communiqué from AHMC released yesterday.
The full text is found here:
The relevant part from a privacy e-health perspective is as follows.
Australian Health Ministers’ Conference
5 March 2009
Privacy consultation and individual healthcare identifier
Consistent with the Council of Australian Governments agreement that all Australian residents will be allocated an Individual Healthcare Identifier (IHI), Health Ministers agreed to continuing consultations on privacy protections that will be necessary to underpin this important health initiative.
The IHI will support better linkage of patient information and communication between healthcare providers involved in patient treatment, but will not need to be declared for an individual to receive healthcare. The IHI will not replace the Medicare number, which is used for claiming government healthcare benefits.
Implementation of the IHI will be supported by a strong and effective legislative framework that includes governance arrangements, permitted uses and privacy safeguards.
Strong privacy protection for patient health information is fundamental to delivering high quality individual and public health outcomes. Individuals rightly expect a high level of protection for their personal health information.
It is essential that privacy arrangements appropriately meet community expectations and balance the need to protect the privacy of personal information with the healthcare benefits that can be gained through better sharing of health information.
Government consultations are currently underway about the recommendations contained in the report by the Australian Law Reform Commission of its review of Australian privacy laws, including health privacy protections.
Further consultations are now planned to build on stakeholder feedback that has already been provided on the ALRC proposals and provide an opportunity to consider particular issues relating to privacy safeguards for national E-Health initiatives. A report on the outcomes will be provided to COAG by mid-2009. Arrangements for consultation are being developed.
More work will have to be done on this before an IHI can be implemented.
Well it seems we rather need rather more work that some were anticipating – and as I suggested earlier in the week
First we need to consult, then develop a report, then have report approved.
Once that is done, then there will need to be legislation developed and enacted before any serious implementation can begin. Sadly, because NEHTA did not have its act together and pro-actively have the required privacy work done (which it has known needed to be done at least a year ago) I doubt we will see any serious implementations until mid 2010.
Pretty annoying for those awaiting this core infrastructure.
In the mean time who knows what little traps are lurking in the other NEHTA plans that might further delay important initiatives? They don’t share the details as they might (e.g. who really knows what is planned for the IEHR) and until they do no-one can be confident unexpected hurdles won’t emerge!