How to opt out of Australia's e-health record scheme

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How to opt out of Australia's e-health record scheme

Only a three-month window.

The federal government has released guidance on how Australians will be able opt out of having a personal electronic health record created under the country's My Health Record scheme.

It ends a period of uncertainty for those who have expressed concern about privacy and data sharing in the scheme.

A policy change from opt-in to opt-out e-health records was first mulled in 2015 when the government starting trialling the automatic creation of electronic health records for individuals.

The trials stemmed from poor adoption of e-health records under the formerly-named PCEHR voluntary scheme.

The federal government confirmed it would officially move into a full-scale rollout of opt-out records in its May 2017 budget, following support from the country's states and territories. The underlying strategy was approved in August.

But until now it had not provided clear advice on how individuals could request not to be involved in the scheme.

It had only offered the ability to register on the My Health Record website to receive updates about the process and the forthcoming opt-out period.

The department has now made public an online resource explaining how individuals will be able to opt out of the process in response to a freedom of information application. The resource had previously been blocked to public viewing.

IT consultant and analyst Justin Warren made the request through the Right to Know FOI platform.

The resource - accessible here - confirms there will only be a three-month window for individuals to request to be left out of the scheme.

The start date for this window has not yet been announced. DHS says it will be revealed early this year.

Until then the email update registration service is the only option; there is no wait list.

"We are not able to collect your personal information to stop a record from being created for you at this time," DHS says.

"We cannot collect your details so you can be opted out until special legislation is passed allowing us to do this."

DHS willl offer both an online portal and an enquiry phone line to allow people to request removal from the e-health record scheme once the opt-out window commences.

The agency has previously revealed that a My Health Record cannot be deleted once it has been created; it can only be deactivated and removed from view.

The My Health Record system will allow individuals to “access and control their own medical history and treatments” like medical tests and vaccines, and share them with their healthcare providers.

The federal government is planning to have e-health records for all Australians that participate in the scheme by the end of this year.

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