Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 9 Hansard (20 August) . . Page.. 3335..
MS GALLAGHER (continuing):
The idea about the health record would be that a GP, a specialist, a hospital or a community health clinic would be able to access a whole range of information about an individual, but only if that individual expressed permission. It would not be to create any additional information to that which already exists. This information already exists in less secure means than an electronic version. It exists in paper files, notes and folders—paper-based records—across, say, five or six different health providers, who have offices full of people who potentially have access to that information.
One of the benefits in e-health, particularly in relation to an electronic health record, is that you would be able to restrict that information in an electronic sense and allow viewing of that information only with the express permission of the individual. It would not be about creating any additional information. It is not about putting on the social security number or those issues that people have been concerned about when issues like the Australia card have been thought of in the past. It is about tightening up access, restricting access, but allowing the benefit for the whole range of health professionals to have access to that information if needed.
For people who, say, have a chronic disease and need that disease managed by a whole range of health providers, the electronic health record signifies a really important step forward in terms of the management of their illness and them being able to manage their illness themselves—because they too, in the long run, would have access to all that information.
MR MULCAHY: Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question of the minister. In practice, won't the ability to secure individual authorities for each and every access of a patient's records be so impractical that you will be wanting a blanket authority when a patient seeks to avail themselves of Canberra's health services?
MS GALLAGHER: No, not at all. If you take a really good look—and I am happy to provide you with some of the documents from across the world that I have been looking at—the developments in e-health are the single biggest changer of how we are going to deliver health services in the future. There is going to be this massive change.
We are seeing it across the world. Australia is probably slightly behind everywhere else in adopting e-health technology. The way we would move forward here, too, is that people would opt in. We would start with those people that wanted to be a part of this system and ultimately progress it out. No-one would be forced to be part of something that they did not want to be part of.
The idea, particularly if we can get one here in the near future, would be that people opt in. They give their permission to enable a number of health professionals to access that, and that is often through a PIN number or a code—
Mr Mulcahy: So it would be a blanket authority?
MS GALLAGHER: To go to the technical details of how it would actually operate in practice, a provider of a health service has a particular number. They can use that number to access another number, which is your number, the patient's number. So it