Penalties for My Health Record privacy breaches
DOCTORS who access a person's My Health Record for a pre-employment health check could be jailed for two years, the agency running the record has warned.
The agency was responding to fears raised in a Senate Committee that women who aren't using contraceptives could be deemed a pregnancy risk and be denied a job if a doctor working for an employer accessed their My Health Record.
Legal firm Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, the ACTU and key unions have told the Senate it appeared doctors working for employers would be able to access a person's My Health Record when carrying out pre-employment check ups, workers compensation claims and regular mandated health checks.
And the Electrical Trade Union said the Australian Digital Health Agency confirmed the record could be accessed as part of a pre-employment health check at a meeting with the union on July 6.
They want the matter put beyond doubt and say a new clause should be included in the My Health Record Act to prevent the use of the record for employment purposes.
At present the employment prohibition relates not to the My Health Record but to the Individual Healthcare Identifier (IHI) doctors need to access a My Health Record.
The IHI is governed by separate legislation.
Former NSW premier now Labor Senator Kristina Keneally expressed fears that a woman's My Health Record would reveal whether they were using contraceptives to prevent pregnancy.
If doctors passed this information on to the employer they may decide not to employ or promote a woman if they think she is likely to become pregnant in the near future and need to take maternity leave.
"Many Australians might look at the My Health Record and think I'm in good health, I've not got anything that would embarrass me but there are lots of things in our health record that are private and may not be embarrassing but may be off putting to an employer," she told News Corp.
Unions said past mental health issues recorded in the My Health Record might influence whether an employer decided to give someone a job or a promotion.
The Australian Digital Health Agency said "employers cannot access My Health Records".
"The Agency also does not consider an employment check to be healthcare and therefore use of the My Health Record by doctors undertaking employment checks is not permitted," the agency said.
"Unauthorised collection, use or disclosure of My Health Record information is subject to a custodial prison sentence of up to two years and fines of $25,000 for each offence."
Trevor Gauld the National Policy Officer, Electrical Trades Union of Australia said if the doctor is mates with an employer who had given them a longstanding employment contract to provide all of their pre-employment medical services he could pass on information about prospective employees at the pub or on the street.
"All the prospective worker gets is a phone call saying, 'Sorry, unfortunately you weren't successful'," he said.
Police Federation Australia expressed fears the same situation could arise where a medical practitioner is employed by an insurance company in relation to workers compensation matters.
Every Australian will get a My Health Record that will reveal what medications they take and if they have a mental illness, had an abortion, are impotent have a sexually transmitted disease or use contraception unless they opt out before November 15.
While they can set access controls to limit which health professionals can access their record fewer than one per cent of Australians who currently have record have done so.
Almost one million Australians have already opted out of the record because of privacy and security concerns.