'Zero confidence': Labor MP in push for opt-in digital health records

As the fallout continues over the government's handling of the opt-out My Health Record scheme, a Labor backbencher has become the first to publicly disown the opt-out model both Labor and the Liberal Party support, pushing for a change back to opt-in for the scheme he says he now has "zero confidence" in.

All Australians will get a My Health Record unless they opt  out by October 15. The file will be accessible by up to 900,000 healthcare professionals, all of whom will have the ability to access it  unless consumers place PINs or other access restrictions on their file to lock it down. Even then, such restrictions can be overridden in emergency situations by authorised professionals.

"The rollout of this has been mishandled from the start by this government," federal Labor MP Pat Conroy told ABC News 24 on Saturday.

Labor MP Pat Conroy wants My Health Record to be opt in.

Labor MP Pat Conroy wants My Health Record to be opt in.

"In theory, having the system is a good thing, it has the potential to save $7 billion …  but this is a government that mismanaged the census collection online. This is a government that allowed Medicare records to be stolen and put on to  … the dark web.

"So I've got zero confidence this government can manage this properly."

Meanwhile, Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly defended the system, but conceded there were hacking risks, as highlighted by the Friday disclosure of 1.5 million health records being stolen in Singapore, including that of the country's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

"I've looked at it, and obviously there are concerns, people should be concerned, we should look at this in detail," Kelly said of My Health Record in the wake of the Singaporean hacking incident.

Liberal MP Craig Kelly has defended My Health Record while acknowledging concerns.

Liberal MP Craig Kelly has defended My Health Record while acknowledging concerns.

Labor's Conroy said the rollout of the opt-out process had been, in his view, "mismanaged".

"I'm worried about the confidentiality of my data and my constituents' data," Conroy said. "In theory, this is a good system but I think we need to do a lot more before I have any confidence this government can manage this."

As a result, the Labor backbencher said he'd "at this stage" opt out.

"I'm probably not going to put my data on there because I don't have confidence in the system," he said. "I'm relaxed about it being opt out once we've got the confidentiality and the IT systems ironed out. "

Conroy added that the privacy of the data must be assured but that he had "zero confidence in this government managing the confidentiality" of the health database under current circumstances.

'Change back to opt-in'

As he didn't have that confidence in the system, "maybe it should be opt in …", Conroy said, becoming the first Labor MP to publicly support a change back to opt in since the scheme changed to opt out in December.

'You've already got suspicions about medical professionals who might have some sort of link with an ex-family member or someone else they don't like accessing data through these systems," he said.

"I'm very nervous about this.

"The vast majority of health professionals are good, honest, hard-working people and we want to make sure that the IT systems are there so that no one can be accused of doing the wrong thing."

But the Liberals'  Kelly said there were benefits.

"If I'm interstate or overseas somewhere, especially Perth or Melbourne and I'm in an accident, I want the medical professionals to be able to look at my record immediately to find out," Kelly said.

"The medical professions have looked at this and said this move will save lives. If people have concerns, they have the ability to opt out. Someone is interstate away from the normal doctor and their medical data is needed very quickly to save their lives. When you weigh things up, it is far better the data is available than not. I'm more than happy for my records to be on that database."

However, Kelly agreed the government "could possibly do more discussion" to sell My Health Record to the public.

"But the reality is the medical professionals are saying this will save lives," Kelly said.

"We shouldn't be playing politics with this. We should be taking their advice. We should be implementing the system. Those that have concerns, they have the ability to opt out."

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