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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

E-health privacy concerns suggest close scrutiny in the Senate.

The quietish run for the Federal Government's e-health plans seems to be coming to an end, with The Australian IT and Adelaide Now both reporting concerns about patient privacy and data security risks, and putting a different slant on things than Health Minister Roxon might have hoped after taking part in a demonstration of connectivity yesterday. 

From the Oz:
Ms Roxon insists the unique identifiers will be available on a secure system operated by Medicare Australia. The Australian Privacy Foundation  says the proposed legislation "fails to take account of significant concerns, despite these having repeatedly (being) drawn to the attention of senior health officials". "Information about consumers will be available to (around) 600,000 health workers, and the numbers will be stored in several thousand local health service information systems, regardless of their security arrangements," the privacy group said. "The bill should also mandate provision for consumer access to their own data."

The Australasian College of Health Informatics is concerned that the Council of Australian Governments "is yet to make a decision on a national e-health record implementation".

From Adelaide Now:
Software developer Peter West, who left NEHTA in September, says centralising the information will make it easier for hackers to access and increase the chance of abuse by medical staff. He says he is one of several people who have quit amid privacy concerns.

University of South Australia PhD candidate Steven Clark, whose doctorate is on the intersection of law and technology in privacy and security, said personal health information was valuable. Critical questions about "who, how, when and why" the information was to be accessed remained unanswered, he said. "In a place like Adelaide there's a lot of people you don't want knowing that your sister is on anti-psychotic medication, or your brother is going through counselling after a rape event," he said. "Who gets access to that?"

University of Adelaide Professor of Public Health Policy Christian Gericke said centralisation of data was a good idea as long as safeguards were preserved. "I have experiences with databases in Germany and the UK, and that's worked very well," he said. "Technically the difficulties are not that big to make them safe - but they were not internet-based, and that's one of the problems (with the Australian model)."

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