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Central Government, Healthcare IT, Information Security

Australian e-health bill passes lower house

Australia’s national personally-controlled electronic health system (PCEHR) has passed the lower house —clearing the next hurdle to managing e-health records in the 21st century.

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The proposed PCEHR e-health bill lays the groundwork to establish a nationally-consistent record of patient and healthcare information throughout Australia.

This initiative, when fully operational, will streamline Australia’s healthcare system – while improving electronic healthcare delivery across all levels of government and healthcare services.

The PCEHR program supports the secure sharing of health information between individuals’ healthcare providers.

This system also ensures individuals can control who accesses their health records.

Australian Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek told Parliament that consumer records are scattered at dispersed locations, making it difficult to consolidate patient information.

At present, consumer health records are scattered over a range of locations in the clinics rather than being attached to the consumer and easily available at the point of care,” she said.

It means consumers need to retell their story every time they visit a different healthcare provider.”

The Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records Bill 2011 and the related Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011 were both passed on third reading in Parliament.

The PCEHR earlier came under scrutiny on privacy grounds. Future reforms will factor in breaches of privacy, including the establishment of an Independent Advisory Council.

This council will advise on operational and policy matters. Audit logs will track who has accessed health records.

Earlier, Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim, canvassed a unified approach to consumer privacy protection.

Commissioner Pilgrim sought clarification about how different commonwealth, state and territory privacy laws would work together under a new regime.

He also wanted stronger powers for his office to audit a system operator, open up investigations and manage the complaints process.

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