My Health privacy to be tightened: Hunt

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt at the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney today

Hunt said the move followed discussions with the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).

The extent to which the My Health Record legislation allowed warrantless access to the records and health data they contained has been in the spotlight over the past week.

The government will also be looking to make the changes as soon as it can, Hunt said.

"Labor's 2012 My Health Record legislation will be strengthened to match the existing ADHA policy", the media release states (as they say on Twitter, don't @ me, that's what it says!).

Even with a court order, Yarwood said, the delegation power and the data release regime represents a profound change to how health data is handled.

People have until October 15 if they want to opt out of the system, but the minister may extend that deadline by another month. "This will be enshrined in legislation", Hunt said.

The government has changed its controversial digital health record initiative, My Health Record, following widespread backlash over the system's privacy and security.

Mr Hunt said the government will continue to advocate to the public about the benefits of the digital health record system.

And - Vulture South is certain you'll be thrilled to hear this - the release also trumpets that the government will work with medical leaders on some kind of spin strategy, or as the release puts it, "additional communications to the public about the benefits and goal of the My Health Record".

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'This change to the My Health Record Act will therefore remove any ambiguity on this matter, ' he said.

While doctors were eager to see the scheme implemented, they were also at the forefront of those raising privacy issues.

The Australian Council of Social Services boss Cassandra Goldie welcomed the decision and urged the government to now rebuild confidence in My Health Record.

National Rural Health Alliance CEO Mark Diamond said the changes address his organisation's fears that the records could be accessed by agencies such as the Tax Office and Centrelink without a court order.

"When a patient steps into the office of one of our Global Positioning System, we want them to know that their health information is private and protected", said RACGP president-elect Dr Harry Nespolon.

AMA president Dr Tony Bartone told ABC Radio's Kim Landers that under the amended legislation as he understood it, the need for a court warrant to access a patient's data will apply to anyone, including any government agency or other authority.

News Corp has also been contacted by people frustrated they can't opt out of the My Health Record using a paper form.

It is understood that support for a redrafting of the legislation emerged within the Liberal Party after last weekend's byelections, in which Labor bolstered its position in part by attacking the Turnbull government's record on health.

Mr Hunt pledged to update provisions around cancelling a My Health Record so if a person chooses to cancel their summary it will be permanently deleted from the system, rather than being stored.

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