Name-changer: PCEHR amendment bill finally introduced

Federal health minister Sussan Ley has introduced a new bill to parliament that will amend the PCEHR and Healthcare Identifier (HI) Service acts to change the name of the $1.2 billion system and allow her to apply an opt-out model following a trial.

The Health Legislation Amendment (eHealth) Bill 2015 is aimed at changing the nomenclature of the system, with terms such as healthcare 'consumer' changed to healthcare recipient and PCEHR to My Health Record.

The bill also allows for the abolition of two advisory committees as part of the government's plans to introduce a new Australian Commission on eHealth (ACeH) that will have new governance arrangements. Those changes can be made through rules under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act).

The bill also simplifies the definition of the PCEHR and introduces the concept of automatic opt-in. “The My Health Record system is a system for making health information about a healthcare recipient available for the purposes of providing healthcare to the recipient,” it says.

“A healthcare recipient will have a My Health Record if the recipient registers in the My Health Record system. The Minister may, however, provide that the opt-out model is to apply under My Health Records Rules made under Schedule 1.

“A healthcare recipient covered by those Rules will be registered in the My Health Record system, and have a My Health Record, unless the recipient elects to opt-out of the system.”

The government plans to run a series of trials of opt-out models next year, at a cost of $51m. The new bill allows the minister to apply the chosen opt-out model to all healthcare recipients if it provides value for those using the system.

There is also clarification of standing consent for healthcare information to be uploaded to the system by a healthcare provider.

“If a healthcare recipient is registered in the My Health Record system, a healthcare provider may upload health information about the recipient to the My Health Record system, unless the record is one which the healthcare recipient has advised the healthcare provider not to upload or the record is not to be uploaded under prescribed laws of a State or Territory,” it says.

The system operator – originally the secretary of the Department of Health but set to become the new commission's responsibility – has been instructed to include statistics on registrations, cancellations and suspensions, the overall use of the My Health Record system by providers and recipients, and complaints and potential security breaches in an annual report.

Labor is likely to support the bill, although shadow health minister Catherine King criticised the time it had taken to produce since the Royle review was conducted in December 2013, as well as the reduction in the scope of funding originally envisaged in the 2014-2015 budget. That budget had provisions for $700 million for the expansion and ongoing operation of the system over the next three years rather than the $485m that was eventually allocated.

“We’ve been waiting for the legislation to be introduced, so we can properly consider it, which we’ll now do,” Ms King said.

“Opt out is an important issue, but this government has wasted two years stalling on eHealth, is now having a trial for another year, and has cut $214 million from it in the budget with no funding beyond 2018.

“The government should stop stalling and just get on with it.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

Tags: PCEHR, Sussan Ley, Catherine King

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