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Medical records online?

Another good excuse for infringing our privacy that governments are wont to provide is efficiency. In such cases, the best bet is to challenge the government agency in question to spell out exactly how these efficiencies are going to be achieved.

The latest gambit in Australia is to provide an electronic health records database. The government claims that this will improve the safety and quality of health care delivery. How, the newspapers do not say.

In another gambit to get this through, the government says there will be no electronic identification numbers, and that patient involvement was voluntary.

Both these gambits need to be challenged. If there are no numbers, one wonders how they propose to deal with the many people known as “Smith” in our country. Not everyone has a unique surname like Wickstein.

And one wonders how ‘voluntary’ this scheme will be in five years time. No doubt, after the scheme has been up and running for a few years, we will be told that to be more ‘efficient’ the scheme needs to be made universal (read, compulsory).

Privacy Commissioner Mal Crompton noted that people might be reluctant to reveal details about themselves if they had doubts about the privacy of their medical records.

There are of course sound medical reasons for the sharing of medical records with, for example, hospitals. But electronic records can stray far and wide.

I don’t think I’d have any real objections to this scheme as it stands now. However, we’ve seen in the past how one government agency likes to dig in the files of another, and frankly, I don’t trust the Australian health system to keep my details private.

How does this matter? Well, how would you like the Tax office auditing you and having access to your medical history? I wouldn’t like the creep auditing me and giving my financial records the third degree knowing my medical details.

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