Guidelines on privacy in the private health sector

4 Oct 2001

AMA President, Dr Kerryn Phelps, said today that the AMA welcomes the release by the Privacy Commissioner of Guidelines on Privacy in the Private Health Sector.

Dr Phelps said the final version has taken account of concerns the AMA had with an earlier draft of the guidelines.

"In the original draft, the National Privacy Principles were at odds with the proper conduct of clinical practice, Dr Phelps said.

"The AMA took a strong stand against that, and the final guidelines reflect the gains we made.

"We have achieved an overall acknowledgment that a doctor's principal concern is the health care of the patient.

"We have achieved a relaxation of what were unworkable and over prescriptive requirements.

"The removal of the 'specificity test' in relation to consent requirements allows doctors to tend unimpeded to their patients' health needs in accordance with good clinical practice.

"Doctors will not be prevented from disclosing health information to lawyers and their indemnity insurers for the purposes of medical defence.

"Nevertheless, doctors and practice managers have substantial work ahead of them to ensure compliance with the privacy rules.

"Ongoing compliance obligations will require doctors and staff to spend more time with patients on administrative and bureaucratic matters and may have to extend the length of an average consultation.

"Inevitably, the cost will be passed on to the patients - another compelling reason for the Government to increase Medicare rebates in line with the recommendations of the Relative Value Study," Dr Phelps said.

In regard to the issue of patient access to their medical records, legislation was passed over a year ago to provide for this. It comes into effect on 21 December so far as health services providers are concerned. The issuing of the Health Privacy Guidelines does not impact on this legal requirement.

CONTACT: John Flannery (02) 6270 5477 / (0419) 494 761

Sarah Crichton (02) 6270 5472 / (0419) 440 076

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