Sunday, October 18, 2015
I Never Thought I Would See Phillip Ruddock Getting Involved In E-Health. His Cross Party Committee Has Thrown A Spanner In The Works!
It was one of those ‘choke on the Wheaties’ moments when I spotted this report.
Date October 15, 2015 - 6:49PM
New laws to give doctors and pharmacists instant access to medical records may pose a risk to human rights by violating privacy.
A parliamentary joint committee on human rights has called on Health Minister Sussan Ley to explain what safeguards are in place to protect Australians' privacy when their health records are uploaded onto a central electronic database, under the new myHealth Record system.
Currently, Australians' health records are only included on the database if they choose to register.
Longstanding Liberal MP Philip Ruddock, who chairs the committee, told Parliament the e-health bill raised "significant privacy concerns".
It was questionable whether the bill's objective - to drive increased use of the database by health professionals - justified the potential privacy breach, Mr Ruddock said.
"To be capable of justifying a proposed limitation of human rights, a legitimate objective must address a pressing or substantial concern and not simply an outcome regarded as desirable or convenient."
The e-health bill is the federal government's attempt to revamp the troubled electronic record system introduced by Labor, which spent $1 billion on the scheme but only one in 10 people registered.
In a bid to increase participation, the health records of all Australians will automatically be uploaded onto the database, unless they actively choose to opt out.
Proponents of the database say that it will lead to better co-ordination between health professionals, reduce unnecessary hospitalisations due to prescription errors and medication misadventures, and cut down on the duplication of tests.
There is also as very clear report here:
15 October, 2015|
Automatically signing patients up to the personally controlled e-health records scheme risks breaching international human rights law, a top parliamentary committee is warning.
In an attempt to breathe life into the PCEHR system, the Federal Government is pushing through legislation to make it “opt-out” only, where patients must declare they do not want their medical records automatically uploaded onto the system.
This is a shift from the current process where patients 'opt-in' to the scheme.
But the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has warned that this approach could fall foul of international law.
Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states there is a right to control the dissemination of information about one's private life.
The committee, chaired by former attorney general Philip Ruddock, has stressed that the government’s proposed opt-out legislation accepts it will restrict privacy rights.
But the government is arguing these restrictions are justified because the objective of the system is to allow “healthcare providers” to access the information they need to inform effective treatment decisions.
However, Mr Ruddock’s committee has challenged this argument.
"[It] is questionable whether the objective behind the bill, in amending the system to an opt-out model, would be considered a legitimate objective for the purposes of international human rights law," the committee said in its report released this month.
“To be capable of justifying a proposed limitation of human rights, a legitimate objective must address a pressing or substantial concern and not simply seek an outcome regarded as desirable or convenient."
Attempting to increase the number of people using the PCEHR system may be regarded as a “desirable or convenient outcome”.
However, this did not mean it was addressing "an area of public or social concern that is pressing and substantial enough to warrant limiting the right [to privacy]”.
Always interested in seeing what was actually said I thought I would track down the Hansard and found these comments from Mr. Ruddock:
“One of the bills considered in this report is the Health Legislation Amendment (e-Health) Bill 2015. This bill seeks to amend the law relation to personally controlled electronic health records, which provides an electronic summary of an individuals health records. Currently a person’s health records can only be included on a register if they choose to opt in to the system. This bill would enable trials to take place, which could then be applied Australia-wide, to enable the health records of all Australians to be automatically uploaded onto the electronic database unless the person actively opts out of the process.
The committee considers that this raises significant privacy concerns which require further justification. In particular, the committee questions whether the objective of the bill, in automatically uploading personal sensitive health information onto the database in an attempt to drive increased use of the database by health care professionals, is a legitimate objective for the purposes of international human rights law. To be capable of justifying a proposed limitation of human rights, a legitimate objective must address a pressing or substantial concern and not simply seek an outcome regarded as desirable or convenient.
Thus the committee is concerned to know whether the limitation on the right to privacy is proportionate; in particular, whether there are adequate safeguards in place to protect an individual's privacy and whether the opt - out model is the least rights - restrictive way to achieve the objective the government seeks. As usual, I will write to the relevant minister to seek her advice on these important questions”
Well put Mr. Ruddock.
If you was to read the full report on which the comments are based go here:
Sadly Mr. Ruddock did not choose to ask the harder question regarding how legitimate the objective of enrolling the entire population into the PCEHR for their own purposes given there is no evidence I, or anyone else has seen, regarding the clinical value that will be added by this intervention.
The guts of the report is in the detail and this is from (p9-24) and in there a very large number of interesting issues are canvassed including how the disabled, the internet free etc. are to be handled
Last week I covered the debate on the PCEHR Bill where we learnt the following from a Labor Speaker:
“ Because this is a somewhat significant change, as I said, whilst Labor does not oppose these measures—in fact, we think they are sensible measures—we think the change requires some scrutiny in the other place to ensure that people's privacy is protected. As I stated well at the outset, Labor does not oppose the intent of this bill. However, we do believe there are elements—especially those that relate to changing the way information can be collected and shared—that do require further scrutiny. As I said, it is not that Labor opposes the principles—many of them do at face value appear to be very common-sense and necessary changes to meet the policy intent—but, given the extent of the changes, stakeholders with direct experience and responsibility in delivering health care and working with personally controlled electronic health records should have an opportunity to provide feedback on the bill.”
So looks like there will be a Senate Enquiry with evidence taken and so on. You can be sure that won’t be quick!
The discussion of the Immunisation Register in the same report is also interesting.
All in all, with what other stakeholders are saying and this speed-bump we are going to be watching this for ages now as more and more money gets wasted.
Maybe it will be all for the good in the end - when the thing is just dumped!
Posted by Dr David G More MB PhD at Sunday, October 18, 2015