Australian privacy-enforcement authorities did not receive any complaints about the use of personally controlled electronic healthcare records (PCEHR) during the first year of their use, new figures confirm.
According to figures published recently by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) and tabled in Parliament this month, the organisation “received no complaints regarding the PCEHR system” during the 2012-13 reporting period and closed only one outstanding complaint, related to the Healthcare Identifiers Act 2010, that was held over from the previous year.
Under the terms of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the OAIC and the Department of Health and Ageing – which runs through 30 June 2014 – the OAIC received $2.2m in funding to carry out enforcement activities around the use of eHealth records.
While its complaints handling processes were in place, however, there was a decided lack of activity: OAIC fielded just 10 telephone enquiries related to the PCEHR during the year, with just two written enquiries and no formal complaints fielded.
It provided policy advice on 15 occasions; handled 14 requests for legal advice and assistance, provided 8 “guidance materials”, and fielded just 9 media enquiries during the entire year.
Despite what it termed “minimal enforcement activity” during the year, however, the OAIC was kept busy with programs such as the establishment of an audit program focused on ensuring PCEHR information is maintained in accordance with the terms of the Privacy Act 1988.
According to the report, over the past year the OAIC also:
- Commenced an audit program focused on ensuring records of personal information are maintained in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (Privacy Act) and the related PCEHR Act and HI Act.
- Established PCEHR enforcement guidelines setting out the Information Commissioner’s approach to the exercise of enforcement and investigative powers under the PCEHR Act and Privacy Act.
- Published fact sheets for consumers about privacy and eHealth.
- Developed an eHealth complaint handling and information sharing arrangement between the OAIC and state and territory privacy and health regulators.
- Established internal processes and documentation to prepare for the OAIC’s regulatory role under the PCEHR Act.
- Trained and developed OAIC staff in the eHealth privacy regulatory framework.