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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

NSW e-health pilot: privacy just part of the problem

We haven't heard much about the NSW e-health project, particularly the two pilot schemes that have been underway in Sydney and the Hunter Valley over the last year or so.

Maybe here's why - The Australian ("Delays dog e-health record trials") reports on a speech by the Deputy Director General of the NSW Department of Health, and it's not a pretty picture or a happy story.

There have been problems with software that have made participation by some doctors impossible to date, and Professor McGrath admitted that sensitive information like HIV status, mental health, pregnancies etc. is not capable of being protected from access by any participants in the project, including allied health professionals.

Professor McGrath said that the Government's decision to adopt an opt out model for the pilots (contrary to the provisions of NSW privacy legislation), was justified because the opt in model was not affordable or practical.

Opt out numbers are low, but you have to wonder whether participants fully realise the extent of potential access to sensitive information.

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