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Thursday, 16 February 2012
Page: 1641


Ms MARINO (ForrestOpposition Whip) (13:41): I rise to speak on the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records Bill 2011. As a member from a rural and regional area, I certainly understand, as members on this side do, the benefits and opportunities provided by e-health. But the issue facing the government is whether it can actually deliver a workable framework for e-health. A timely warning for the government is the UK experience—£12 billion spent on their e-health system since 2005, and it has since been scrapped.

I believe that security, accountability, reliability and transparency are the most important issues we should be considering in relation to this legislation. Both patients and health organisations are dependent on getting the technology and framework right. I know that the health IT industry has expressed concerns about the government's ability to deliver this program by the 1 July target date, as is evidenced by the submissions to the Senate inquiry. For example, the Medical Software Industry Association told the inquiry:

There is evidence of a lack of probity, ineffective governance and an inability to deliver targeted programs.

It also suggested:

The program risks falling into disuse from the very first day of live operation.

I believe the risk to the security of patients' information arises from two avenues: firstly, access by unauthorised persons, and, secondly, the broader cybersecurity risk. The government has to guarantee that this system will under no circumstances give other people access to individual or collective—I think that is a real issue—medical records. I am aware that computer experts have said that the technology needed to guarantee security does not actually exist. I note the measures mentioned in the bill focus on managing the process after the records have been accessed and place this responsibility on healthcare bodies. Well, the damage will have already occurred for the patient at that point.

I am sure everyone in this place is aware of how important the doctor-patient relationship is and how important the issue of confidentiality is. The AMA's submission to the Senate inquiry said:

Confidentiality is regarded as one of the most important aspects of good medical practice.

… … …

The integrity of the confidentiality of the patient medical record is absolutely essential to developing, enhancing, and underpinning the therapeutic relationship between medical practitioners and their patients. This confidentiality secures the necessary trust and openness that characterises the ongoing communication between doctors and their patients to optimise patient care.

There is no doubt that this trust between doctor and patient fundamentally underpins the integrity of our health system. People have to have complete confidence that the personal information they share with their doctor will always remain private.