If you are a single parent suffering abuse at the hands of your child's other parent, you should carefully consider your options for the new My Health Record system.
Government backs down but not far enough
Following social media campaigns and pressure from lobby groups, emergency talks were held early this week between the head of the Australian Medical Association and Health Minister, Greg Hunt.
As a result of those talks, Mr Hunt agreed to re-draft the My Health Record legislation to ensure that "no record can be released to police or government agencies, for any purpose, without a court order."
He added that Australians may also be given an extra month to opt out of the My Health Record after a comprehensive advertising campaign aimed at educating the Australian public about their options.
You’re in unless you opt out
There are calls from opposition groups to scrap the rollout, however, as things currently stand, the system is going ahead and an online health record will be created for every Australian unless that individual opts out. The record will be linked to your MyGov account and freely accessible to you as the patient via PIN protected access through that portal.
Uploads to the record are not automatic, and health practitioners do have to ask each time if an event summary can be uploaded to it. The documents uploaded can be managed by the patient themselves, at any time.
Some data, such as prescribing data, may be uploaded automatically. The data can be PIN code protected so that any doctor who wishes to access it needs a code from the patient. In the case of emergency, the record can be unlocked without the code. In all cases, the ID of the person who accesses it will be stored in an identifiable way.
Opt out HERE by 31st January, 2019.
The special risk to single parents and their children
There have been many comments and articles published on the My Health Record system in recent weeks.
Family law experts have concerns that the My Health Record system could become a new form of manipulation or abuse in disputes between confrontational ex-spouses, as well as compromising the protection and a risk to the safety of people, particularly women, fleeing abusive former partners.
A loophole exists in the system that allows either parent the power to create, access and monitor the child's My Health Record, with or without the other parent's consent. This would even extend to a parent who does not have parental responsibility.
An abusive ex-partner who did this and continued to have access to the details could gain access to details including the location of medical practitioners and pharmacies attended by the child with their primary caregiver. The effect would be to potentially isolate the location of a victim in hiding.
Linda Burney MP, the opposition's spokeswoman on domestic violence recently said, "we know that in many abusive relationships, abuse continues in many forms. One form of abuse is exercising control over such things as login details."
What to do if you feel you are at risk
If you feel you or your child’s safety may be in jeopardy if the other parent were to register your child’s details, contact the Australian Digital Health Agency and request that your child's personal identification number (which is linked to their Medicare account) be suspended immediately.
The agency will then assess any requests by the respective parents to register as a person authorised to act on behalf of the child.
Chief executive of the Women's Legal Service in Queensland, Angela Lynch, warned that any refusal of access by the Digital Health Agency could be contested in the Family Court, including by an abusive former partner.
"Perpetrators are highly litigious and will use the information against victims and family," Ms Lynch reportedly told Fairfax Media.
She said many abusers retained shared parental responsibility of their children, even if family violence restraining orders were in place because the Family Court was a forum where parties were often forced to compromise.
Unless a primary caregiver has a Family Court order granting them sole parental responsibility in regard to medical treatment, which was rare, a refusal of access would be unlikely to withstand a legal challenge, Ms Lynch said.
She also noted that apprehended violence orders frequently did not name children as protected parties.
It remains unclear how the Digital Health Agency will mediate the rival claims of parents seeking to create or delete children's My Health Records.
Related article: Is New My Health Record a Risk to Victims of abuse?
Additional areas of concern
Surgeon, Neela Janakiramanan's concerns extend beyond privacy.
Ms Janakiramanan said in her recent and much-shared article, that women who may see their health practitioner for domestic violence advice may be able to request that an event summary not be uploaded – but when she fills a prescription for the oral contraceptive pill, or for medical termination of pregnancy – it will be there for her partner to see. Older teenagers, who socially and legally have a right to medical privacy, may equally continue to have parental oversight.
Many women visit their GP for advice on how to seek help in violent, controlling and abusive family situations.
"We know that as soon as people worry about medical privacy, they simply avoid presenting for care at all," states Ms Janakiramanan.
"The fact that health records, prescription information and blood test information do not exist outside individual pathology providers or medical practices is one of the only protections for those facing family violence or vulnerability within the home."
WATCH: For more information about My Health Record
Published by, Christine Weston
Founding Director and Creator of Divorce Resource
Australian Nationally Accredited Mediator and Divorce Coach