Access Card: Voluntary Medical and Emergency Information

Chair of the Consumer and Privacy Taskforce, Professor Allan Fels
AO, has released the Taskforce’s second report (pdf), on whether Voluntary Medical and Emergency
Information should be included on the customer controlled portion of the access card

The Taskforce initially believed that there was considerable in principle support for the use of the Access Card as a device to enhance the access to emergency and health data which could
assist in the treatment of individuals in situations of accident and emergency.

However the submissions revealed how complex and difficult this would be to achieve in a practical sense. The critical issues revolved around the validation of data entered; keeping this data current and accessing it physically in emergency situations.

The main criticisms were :
• the use of the Access Card for the storage of medical and emergency health data is a purpose so removed from the essential rationale for having an Access Card that this functionality should not be supported
• that recommendations which preclude future uses in the medical and emergency health services area should not be supported
• insufficient attention has been paid to the additional and special privacy protections which need to be accorded to voluntary health data which is recognised as having a higher degree of sensitivity than many other classes of data
• there are numerous technical or architectural questions which still remain to be resolved before any effective system involving the storage of medical and emergency health data could be implemented. 

The Taskforce recommended that:

  1. The Government should defer the possible implementation of this aspect
    of the access card program until such time as further consultation and
    consideration can be undertaken with a view to addressing the issues
    raised in this report;
  2. At the point of
    registration, card applicants should be given the opportunity to
    register their consent to be an organ donor on the Organ Donor Register
    managed by Medicare Australia, and also be given the option to have
    their organ donor status reflected on the Access Card.

The Minister for Human Services Senator Ellison said that the Government will defer the introduction of
the owner-controlled part of the chip until further consideration and
consultation has taken place.

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