Despite the number of Australians having removed themselves from the creation of a My Health Record now hitting 1.147 million, the agency responsible is happy with the result.
The Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) told Senate Estimates on Wednesday the opt-out rate was under 5 percent. In July, Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt revealed that the government was expecting a My Health Record opt-out rate of 10 percent.
The previous update by ADHA had 900,000 opt-outs as of September 12. The figures include opt-outs via the website and call centre, but not those being processed by paper forms.
ADHA officials said on Wednesday that once the opt-out window closes on November 15, My Health Records will not be created until a month later, due to the need to reconcile paper form opt-outs.
Last week, the Senate Community Affairs References Committee called for the opt-out window to be extended by 12 months, and for access controls to be applied to records by default. In a dissenting report, government senators disagreed with the recommendations.
Pushed by Labor senators under questioning, the government maintained the line that extending the opt-out window would prevent the benefits of the system from being realised in a timely fashion, despite the fact that amendments to the My Health Record legislation are yet to clear Parliament.
One of the changes introduced by the amendments would allow for the permanent deletion of a My Health Record, but ADHA revealed it has yet to begin work on that functionality as the legislation has not passed and could thus be changed.
ADHA CEO Tim Kelsey said that if the legislation is passed by November 12, the hard delete functionality would be in place by December 7, before records are created for those who do not opt out.
Shadow Minister for Health Catherine King said the government is planning further changes.
“Health bureaucrats have also revealed the government is weighing further changes to the My Health Record legislation based on concerns raised during the inquiry — even though Minister Hunt earlier dismissed the inquiry as a stunt,” King said.
“Minister Hunt should immediately detail what changes he intends to make so they can be fully considered before the opt-out period ends in November.”
Officials for the Department of Health also revealed that in the six years the system has been operating, it has received one request for health records from law enforcement, but no records were released to Tasmanian Police.
The department said in September that of the 971,252 records created during My Health Record’s trial period, only 214 access controls were set. Of that number, 196 records had a code applied to the entire record, 10 had individual documents locked down with a code, and eight had both record and document codes applied.
Last week, documents obtained under Freedom of Information showed ADHA had no detailed policy or process for releasing My Health Record data to support regulatory and legal requests.
The only internal policy guidance appears to have been the agency’s commitment, stated publicly, not to release data except “where the agency has no discretion”, such as when responding to a court order.