Despite receiving assurances from medical groups at last night's Senate Inquiry that a unique health identifier was essential for all Australians to improve healthcare outcomes, there remain voices of dissent from the Senate.
Speaking at the Senate inquiry into Healthcare Identifiers Bill last night, Liberal Party Senator Brett Mason asked both the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Medical Software Industry Association (MISA) why the Government had to introduce unique healthcare identifiers before providing a full picture of what they may be used for, other than providing health services.
Senator Mason used the hearing to call on the Federal Government to detail its privacy regime in full, so that the Australian public could "assess the scheme in total."
Dr Vince McCauley, treasurer and immediate past president of MISA said that delaying the release of the unique health identifier would setback the entire e-health system rollout by a decade.
"If it never went any further (than implementing the unique health identifier) it would have been worth doing," he said.
"You have to do things in an incremental way."
He cited the failure of the NHS Connecting for Health system in the UK and said it was due to rolling out too much of their e-health system at the same time, and trying "to do too big a job".
Dr Andrew Pesce, president of the AMA said that the unique healthcare identifier system had to be finalised before privacy concerns could be adequately addressed.
"Until we know how we're going to identify people, how are we going to know how to protect their privacy?" he said.
Dr Pesce said that the association supported the Healthcare Identifiers Bill despite privacy concerns preventing it for supporting a full e-health rollout under similar conditions.
"We will never support rolling out an e-health system unless the privacy concerns were adequately addressed," he said.
Ms Lisa Pettigrew, Director - Health Services of Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) explained the separation between the unique healthcare identifier and the whole e-health system by likening it to a mobile phone number, separate to the handset, SIM card and carrier.
"We just need the number by the first of July," she said.