Senate committee recommends passage of PCEHR bill

The Senate committee investigating the legislation underpinning the PCEHR has recommended it be passed.

The Labor-dominated committee split as expected on party lines, with the two Coalition senators issuing a dissenting report and the two Greens senators recommending minor amendments.

The committee did agree that there were problems with governance and the 'opt-in' model, recommending that when the government reviews the operation of the act after two years, as is required, it look at the appropriateness of the Department of Health and Ageing having responsibility as the system operator, as well as possible alternative governance structures.

It also recommended that the review also consider the opt-in design of the system and whether it could move to an opt-out system, as recommended by consumer health groups and the Australian Medical Association.

While it made no recommendation, the committee did note the concerns raised about the effectiveness of the National eHealth Transition Authority (NEHTA).

“As these issues do not go to the substance of the bill they will not be covered in the committee's report,” the committee said. “However, the committee considers that the level of criticism warrants attention.”

The committee also noted the critical submissions made by a number of groups, such as the Medical Software Industry Association (MSIA) and the Consumer eHealth Alliance, about the design of the PCEHR and what they thought were inherent flaws and dangers.

The report states that while the committee notes these concerns, it also noted the advice and explanations from DoHA and NEHTA.

“The committee considers that the information it received throughout the inquiry suggests there is a level of confusion among stakeholders,” it said.

“The committee appreciates the information that it has received to clarify these issues throughout its inquiry, and recommends that the Commonwealth and NEHTA ensure that this information is fully available to stakeholders.”

In their dissenting opinion, the two Coalition senators recommended that the PCEHR legislation be delayed for a year in order to address issues of governance, patient risk, privacy and interoperability.

The two Greens senators recommended that further consumer privacy enhancements be added by the system operator and that it consult with the independent advisory council or other community representatives in the development of default access controls.

The full report is here.

The Senate rises later this week for a month's break and it is unclear as yet whether it will vote on the legislation, which will pass with majority support.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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