MediSecure breach probe in early stages

The MediSecure data breach investigation is in its early stages but patients can feel confident to fill current scripts, AMA Queensland Vice President Dr Nick Yim told ABC Brisbane.

Transcript: AMA Queensland Vice President, Dr Nick Yim, ABC Brisbane, Drive with Kelly Higgins-Devine, Friday 17 May 2024

Subject: MediSecure data breach

KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE:   If you get your medications on electronic script or e-script, how are you feeling about the latest data breach? I must admit, I didn’t think much of it, I heard ‘MediSecure’ and I thought ‘I don’t use MediSecure’. And then it dawned on me that I wouldn’t have a clue if my GP used MediSecure or not, I just get my script and off we go.

Online prescription service MediSecure has shut down its website. It’s yet to reveal how many of us have potentially had our personal health information compromised. The advice from Australia’s Cyber Security Coordinator, Lieutenant General Michelle McGuinness, is that if you’ve been impacted, you’ll be contacted.

Nick Yim is the Vice President of the Australian Medical Association Queensland and is keeping a close eye on this ransomware attack. Nick Yim, good afternoon.

DR NICK YIM:   Good afternoon, Kelly.

KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE:   Let's go back a step. How does the MediSecure system work?

DR NICK YIM:   Most of the public will realise that we have had electronic prescriptions since COVID. MediSecure is one of the software companies that exists as an exchange service. It's similar to a secure messaging system that transfers data - your prescription - between a prescriber - your doctor - and the dispenser - the pharmacist.

KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE:   How many doctors use it in Queensland, do we know?

DR NICK YIM:   I would say the majority of doctors in Queensland would be using an electronic transfer system. This came in and became quite popular through COVID times with telehealth and as you can imagine, it's really convenient. It's really beneficial for our patients across the state, whether you live in Coolangatta, Cairns or Mount Isa, I'm sure many of your listeners would have actually utilised this electronic service for convenience factors.

KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE:   Yeah. Look, I have as well. And when I’ve forgotten medication that I've had to have, I've been able to contact my doctor and get them to send me a script so I can load up on it when I was somewhere else in the country, which has been really handy. I'm sure other people have had that happen too. So you can see the benefits of it, but then you wonder, okay, well, how much patient information do they hold? Do we know what sort of details they have?

DR NICK YIM:   As you can imagine, these prescriptions, you have your patient's name, you've got Medicare details, address. But the key thing currently with this data breach, it's still at the very, very early stages. The Australian government, to their credit, has acted very swiftly with this response by creating this national body to investigate. Until they have done those investigations, we won't be aware of how much of the data has been leaked.

KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE:   This is the thing, I suppose, that we don't always think about. You know that your doctor’s got information on you, but the fact that a script provider would need to have your Medicare number and all those other details because it's part of the script, you don't really think about that, do you?

DR NICK YIM:   Yeah. And these are much of the challenges. We are living in a digital age. I'm sure many of us would have social media, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, even having a mobile phone, for example, you're always sharing data. The key thing at the moment is we are seeing a few data breaches, which is quite concerning. And we're just waiting to see what the response is.

KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE:   Nick, what is the biggest concern for this as, far as you're concerned?

DR NICK YIM:   I do want to reassure the listeners. For all the people who do have prescriptions currently, that is not affected by the data breach. These are previous historical data that we potentially could be concerned about. So people who are holding prescriptions, it doesn't mean stop the medications or anything. Those prescriptions are still valid and moving forward, the new prescriptions that we have are still valid as well.

KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE:   And your advice for now, is it still safe to use it?

DR NICK YIM:   It is currently very safe to use. The data breach was due to previous factors. We're still waiting for current information from the Australian government, and they are working very, very tirelessly on this response.

KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE:   All right, Nick, we will wait to see who's affected. And if people are affected, do you know yet how they're going to be told that their data's been stolen?

DR NICK YIM:   This is at the very, very early stages, so we'll watch and see what the Australian government response is.

KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE:   All right. Nick Yim, thank you. Nick is the Vice President of the Australian Medical Association of Queensland. They're in a bit of a wait and see as well. But your information is probably safer now than it was before the data breach.

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