What are my rights in relation to my health and medical records?

by Imogen Thomas

Information about health or medical treatment can be highly sensitive and it is important that it is handled appropriately by health services providers.  At elringtons, we can provide advice on your rights and help you obtain access to your health and medical records.

How is my information protected?

Personal information held by health service providers is protected by privacy law, including the Health Records (Privacy and Access) Act 1997 in the ACT and the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002 in NSW. The Commonwealth Privacy Act 1982 may also apply.

These laws set out binding principles for health providers, including rules about:

  • what health information they may collect and how they may collect it, including who it may be collected from;
  • the circumstances when health information may be used by the provider or disclosed to a third party;
  • what they must inform individuals about how information will be handled;
  • ensuring that information is stored securely and protected from unlawful access, misuse, interference or loss; and
  • ensuring that information is relevant, correct and up to date.

When you visit a health services provider such as a doctor or physiotherapist for the first time, they should provide you with details about how your information will be handled by them. This information might be provided to you on a form, may be on display in their office or their website, or it could be discussed with you during the course of your visit.   You can ask for this information at any time.

How can I access my information?

Privacy laws also provide a right for individuals to request access to, and correction of, their records held by their health provider.  The methods for requesting records varies, depending on what State you are in and what legislation applies. Â

In NSW, a request for access to health information held by a health provider must:

  • be in writing;
  • state the name and address of the individual making the request;
  • identify the health information to which access is sought; and
  • specify the form in which the individual wishes the information to be provided.

In NSW, individuals may also request that their information be amended by making a request:

  • in writing;
  • stating their name and address;
  • identifying the health information concerned;
  • specifying how they claim the information is inaccurate, out of date, irrelevant, incomplete or misleading; and
  • (if out of date or incomplete) providing any relevant information necessary to complete the information or bring it up to date.

In the ACT, a request for access to health information held by a health provider must:

  • state the name and address of the individual;
  • identify the health record to which access is sought; and
  • specify the form in which the individual wishes the information to be provided.

In certain circumstances, a request must be in writing, including where the health provider requests that the individual makes the request in writing. Â

In both NSW and the ACT, health providers may charge for access to the records.

In some circumstances, health providers may refuse access to the information, including where they are required to by law or where providing access would pose a serious threat or significant risk to the life or health of the individual or any other person. If access is refused because of that risk to life or health, the individual may request that the information be provided to a nominated registered medical practitioner instead.

Feel free to contact us if you have questions about accessing your health information, or any other health law issues.

p: +61 2 6206 1300 | e: Info@elringtons.com.au