My Health Record: Labor calls for longer opt-out period

Shadow health minister calls for government to put more effort into spruiking the benefits of My Health Record

Labor has called on the government to extend the opt-out window that allows Australians to request they are not enrolled in the national eHealth record system.

The three-month opt-out period for My Health Record began on 16 July. If an individual does not opt out during that period then a record will be automatically created.

Labor originally established the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) system, which later was renamed My Health Record. The system was originally opt-in. A review of the system commissioned by the Coalition government after its victory at the 2013 election recommended both the new name for the eHealth record and that the system be moved to opt-out.

The government staged trials of the opt-out approach in parts of New South Wales and Queensland. An evaluation of the trials concluded that maintaining an opt-in system was seen as “unsustainable”.

The transition to opt-out has come under fire from privacy advocates. Concerns have been raised over the security of the system – some 1.5 million records from Singapore’s health record system were recently accessed by hackers – as well as the ability of law enforcement agencies to access the system and the potential for the private sector to gain access to My Health Record data.

In a letter to health minister Greg Hunt, Labor health spokesperson Catherine King called on the government to extend the three-month opt-out window.

In the letter, the shadow health minister noted that there has been “significant and growing concern about the My Health Record”. As a result, King wrote, Labor believes "there is now a strong case to extend the opt-out period beyond the three months currently planned so the Government can launch a comprehensive information campaign to educate the public and restore their trust in this reform.”

King did not propose a specific extension period. The MP reiterated Labor’s support for the eHealth record system.

Labor voted for the 2015 bill that allowed the shift to opt-out.

“We will take on good faith from the government that the outcomes of the [opt-out] trials will be properly communicated and that, if the evidence provides that a national opt-out system is a better approach, this evidence will be presented in a transparent way,” King said during debate on the bill.

“It think it is in the interests of the entire health sector that that is done and shows what needs to be done and why. It would also be of value for the government, sooner rather than later, to announce the extent of these trials, what populations are being captured and which sites it has under consideration.”