The Health Legislation Amendment (eHealth) Bill 2015 was recently passed in Australia after passing through both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The new legislation expressly permits opt-out arrangements in selected regions for the implementation of an electronic health records system. If an initial trial period is deemed successful, this will subsequently enable opt-out to occur nationally.

This is a significant development because previously e-health records systems were only allowed on a strict opt-in basis, which some commentators suggested was delaying the constructive development of e-health records in Australia. Despite this change, however, healthcare recipients will still have the right to tell healthcare providers not to include specific data or documentation in the system and to be informed when their data is accessed or used.

TIP: This trial arrangement may be a major step forward in the development of e-health record systems, although healthcare providers remain subject to specific requirements and safeguards, including mandatory data breach notification requirements for unauthorized activities or access to records, or any activity which could undermine the security of the relevant system.