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March 6, 2021

Mandy Nolans Soapbox: Be an early opter

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Nothing more thrilling than the prospect of a little violation of your most personal data.

I just love people I’ve never met making decisions about my wellbeing. Especially when I’m not consulted. My Health Record is the latest gift from Big Brother, or should we call him Big Doctor?

Our government cares so much about my wellbeing that they have kindly created a complete online health record that will collate all my personal health details, both current and historic, alongside all my private identification data. And they didn’t even ask!

What a lovely surprise! Nothing more thrilling than the prospect of a little violation of your most personal data. All those STIs you’ve caught and passed on, those alcoholic binges, those psychotic episodes, all captured and released to all the good doctors at the other end.

Thanks to the new myhealthrecord.gov.au website, all my personal and confidential health records are soon to be accessible via one convenient little portal! Protected of course with a password – so we all know that it will be terribly secure! It’s just cut the guesswork out for any insurance companies who might be curious about just how risky I actually am. ‘She says she doesn’t smoke, but here we have a record back in the early 90s where she was doing three bongs a day.’ (I only told the doctor three; I was doing six.) Apparently, they won’t be given access – well at least not straightaway. They’ll be second in line after the police, who apparently can use the data without even using a warrant. Great way to find out who the drug users are and where they live. Just a little My Health Record googling and they’ll be able to knock up a spreadsheet of meth users, heroin addicts and pot heads. Gives some doors to knock on when things are a bit slow at the station.

Excuse me, Mr Government (paternalistic behaviour means I will be referring to the government gendered as a white privileged male, because typically they are the group who like to make decisions on behalf of all non-white privileged males), but I would have liked to have the choice to ‘opt in’ rather than being told I was already in something that I could choose to get out of. Like a bad marriage.

It’s a breach of one’s consent – as until I ‘opt out’ I am ‘in’ something I don’t entirely understand or give permission to be part of.

I am not normally a person prone to conspiratorial thinking and in theory the idea of a centralised and easily accessible health record certainly has some positives. For the more itinerant amongst us it means a continuity of health records while doctor shopping, or if you’re presented to ED after a serious accident your medications and pre-existing conditions will be immediately available.

But are doctors really going to read your records? They’re going to need a few hours before a consult to read all about your haemorrhoids, high blood pressure and halitosis. Riveting reading.

And what if you have an argument with a doctor or they’ve made an incorrect diagnosis – or their notes include something prejudicial about your lifestyle that not only will never be removed but is accessible – forever? What if you have a history of mental health issues; how can you be assured that information like that won’t be accessed by future employers? What if you were an injecting drug user, or you still are and you don’t want your workplace to know? What assurance is there that your private information is going to stay private?

Won’t the doctor’s receptionist have your password? I am sure they’re lovely but that feels like a bit of a glitch in the security right there. Could hackers breach patient records and use the information to create fake identities, or commit cyber-crimes? Don’t think it doesn’t happen because it just did last week in Singapore where 1.5 million Singapore patient records were duplicated by hackers. Including the prime minister Lee Hsien Loong. If the prime minister’s records can’t be protected, what hope does anyone else have?

I have opted out. It’s not hard. I just googled ‘my health record how to opt out’, then I clicked the link and filled in the required data that requested that I and my dependent children to be removed from Big Doctor. So now the government have a record of me as an opter outer. Let’s see what happens to me now.

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  1. Both my wife and myself have been in life-threatening situations in Emergency Departments. When my wife was unconscious in Emergency, the doctors asked me for some information which would have helped them treat her. I couldn’t answer the question, but it would have been on her medical records. I would have been happy for the health professionals to be able to look it up on My Health Record. But that’s just me, I’m not clever enough to be able to identify conspiracies.

  2. You pretty much lost all credibility when you mentioned “white privilege male”. Moreover, you are also being as dishonest as the person you referred to seeking a life insurance policy, stating that they do not smoke, when they do. Your claim the police can access your data whenever they wish is false. They can’t access your data without a written court order approving access. You have harped on and on and on about a load of hypothetical what if’s, but unless you are a hermit who has been living under a rock these past 20 or so years, there is any amount of cyber data already available to criminal hackers to steal anyone’s identity.

  3. Good to see a bit of balance. Well put, Brian. I guess that in a life or death situation I don’t care what anyone knows about me if it is going to help.

  4. I’ve opted out too. I’ve been taken advantage of in the past by giving out too freely my email addy to retailers like Rivers, Good Guys, Harveys and travel agents, only to suddenly get bombarded with ads and offers from similar companies in my inbox.
    Nowadays I guard my identity closely, and especially to Big Guvvy, despite the apparent benefits to some of splashing their medical records across the country.

  5. Right on again Mandy. Agree that opting out Is not a matter of being “prone to conspirationial thinking” or similar, it’s a matter of both consent and privacy. For your criticism of Mandy’s article I say this to Mark May – have you ever heard of poetic licence? Besides Mandy didn’t set herself up as the ultimate authority – she gave the www link so people could do their own information seeking.
    Tonight’s tv news tells that the fed. government admitted that its for this security could be tighter. One wonders what else?

  6. These Internet health records have been on the cards for at least ten years. Some doctors have opted out of practice because of the burden it puts on their own insurance prices. So where is the sudden big brother thing from; we’ve known about big brother since at least 1948. Maybe commentators could try a little more at predicting futures, like Yeats, based on a knowledge of the past, instead of reacting to the daily present based on whatever. Excuse any synapse problems with this analysis, it’s a fuse thing.

  7. Health records be damned. I opted out. First up there’s no security as such on just about
    anything. Secondly, what happened when I got a messed-up medical report, plus an x-ray
    incorrectly read? 2 MRIs & Duplex USS of the neck vessels got ‘called for’ by a new
    [well respected] neurologist. His review of my clinical history of Recurrent strokes &
    Cerebral Amyloid angiopathy now sits with a ‘don’t you worry about that’ useless first
    observation. Hey. Try walking around after a ‘brain bleed’ no-one bothered to tell you
    about & 3MRIs that show the rest of it. This is dangerous stuff. I don’t trust the pollies
    any more than I believe in the ‘medical’ mix & match.

  8. Again apologies my synapse problems. I wonder if old paper files end up on the net. If so theres books on me. Someone once wanted my dna for a study. Yes observation. Still we opted out when there was something rlse to opt into. Dreams of sheep hardly changes the future. The revolution is such a dream and I worry for my calories.

  9. Of course everyone should be saints really, it’s that obvious to all us not in the big end of town. Where does one go for a halo readjustment?

  10. Opt out now* before 15/10/18, opt in later (at your leisure) when, and if, all the inevitable teething problems are sorted out. (Like the little problem with the 1.5 million Singaporean records…)
    And check out the First Dog on the Moon cartoon about MyHR. Very interesting information.
    You can still opt-out later, after 15/10/18, however any information uploaded in the intervening period (including up to 2 years of Medicare info prior to the time that you opt-out) will still be kept by the government (archived).
    Great, insightful writing as usual Mandy.
    – Jenny (Health Worker)

  11. I’m with you , Mandy , and adding another reservation. Authorities will have no access to confidential info.unless they can get a court order, which everyone seems to have faith in . I don’t. What court ? How thorough will the hearings be ? Will the patients be represented ? (Rhetorical question . Of course they won’t.) As ASIO ,
    the ATO , the AFP , Centrelink are all based in Canberra the chances are the bulk of court order applications will be there . What’s to stop the authorities finding a tame magistrate or judge who will rubber stamp every application ? Will they be able to get a court order over the phone , ringing a sleepy judge at 11:30 at night ?
    (The government makes all judicial appointments..) Too many questions on this one issue alone. And of course the biggest problem is the hackers. It’s ok for me , i’m healthy enough for an old fart (white male , not especially privileged , albeit a dreaded baby-boomer ) but f*^k ’em anyway, i’m opting out !

  12. It’s also possible that ‘opting out’ will still enable the government/law enforcement to access your health record. They just won’t tell you they can. Perhaps your health file with be lableled ‘priority check’ and subsequently scrutinised with suspicion. Only doctors etc. won’t be able to access them creating the illusion that your health records are now private.


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