What if your My Health Record becomes standard ‘pre-screening’ by employers?
Unless you’ve been living in a cave over the last few weeks, you’ll be aware that unless you physically opt-out, the government will create a health record with your name on it later this year. While you have until 15 October to go online, provide either your Medicare card or driver’s licence and opt-out of the My Health Record program, the government is being pressured to extend this cut-off point.
Believe it or not, 5.9 million Australians allegedly already have a My Health Record, with most people having registered themselves. One of the key premises on which My Health Records are being established is that healthcare authorities will have better and quicker access to your medical history.
For example, should you be in an accident, medical authorities could quickly go online, search your medical record and determine whether you’re allergic to any medications or anaesthetics and so on.
However, there’s a growing backlash to the whole My Health Record initiative, with the number of people choosing to opt-out expected to run into the millions. Even doctors are threatening to boycott the My Health Record initiative to protect their patients’ privacy.
The grounds on which people (and healthcare professionals) object to having a state-controlled record of their medical history are many and varied. There are those who question what business it is of the ‘state’ knowing, storing and potentially ‘using’ your medical records. Then there are those who simply question how secure their highly confidential medical data will be.
In the wake of recent major security breaches experienced by government agencies, like Centrelink, the ATO and others, Health Minister Greg Hunt has tried to appease public fear by describing My Health Records database as having ‘military-grade security’. However, according to Peter Moon technology lawyer with Cooper Mills, there’s simply no such thing as military-grade security.
Even if there was, he says it can’t account for human error and the ability of the data to be compromised by any third parties that have – legally or otherwise – access to your medical data. The single biggest threat to this data is the ease with which it can be hacked, and where the data might end up if it is.
But assuming it isn’t hacked, people are also legitimately concerned over who will ultimately have access to their medical records and on what pretext. Worst case scenarios would see data-marketing companies sell access to your medical records to pharmaceutical companies (and/or others) that email or call you about products or services relating to any medical condition you might have. How would feel if that actually happened?
There’s also the possibility that your My Health Record, could become a surrogate proxy for employment or other forms of pre-screening. For example, what if a potential employer had access to your medical history, and filtered you out of contention for a job based on a previous or existing medical condition?
This also opens another hornet’s nest once you factor in complex mental health issues. Equally concerning, what if the data on your medial record is simply wrong, and if it is, are you in a position to change or remove it?
Whether you choose to opt-out of My Health Record or not is entirely your own affair. But before you do, think hard about what it means to you on a number of different levels. Equally important, question whether the risk of your medical history being misused outweighs any potential or perceived benefits to you and your family.