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Health records and personal information

Queensland Health respects the privacy of patients and their families. Your previous care history can help us identify which treatments are likely to be safe and effective for you, and can also help reduce the likelihood of repeating tests.

Queensland Health is subject to privacy and confidentiality legislation which set the standards for how we handle your personal information.

Information collected in health records

When you attend a health facility, a record is made that contains:

  • your name
  • address and contact details
  • nature of the problem
  • family history
  • diagnosis and treatment
  • test results, x-rays and scans
  • Medicare and other Commonwealth benefit card details.

The personal information collected relates to your diagnosis and treatment. Health information may be contained in paper records, electronically or in other mediums depending on the tests and treatment you have had. Every time you attend a health facility, new information is added to your record.

Information will generally be collected directly from you. However there may be circumstances where we may need to talk to someone else—for example, your doctor or a relative in an emergency situation. This information may also be included in your record.

Using another name

We know some people may wish to use another name (alias) when receiving health services. However this may prevent us from finding all the information we hold about you and provide appropriate care. Regardless of whether or not you use an alias, we will search our records and attempt to match and merge all records about you.

Protecting your information

All Queensland Health staff are bound by a strict legal duty of confidentiality. It is an offence for our staff to give information about you to anyone except under limited circumstances set out in legislation. We maintain strict security policies and practices with respect to who has access to personal information about you.

If you have any questions about privacy and confidentiality in Queensland Health facilities, talk to the privacy contact at your hospital or health service (HHS). 

Who can access your information

After you are discharged from hospital, we will generally provide information to your doctor about your treatment, and any special instructions related to your care. If you do not want this information to be sent to your doctor, please let us know before you are discharged.

Your records may be accessed by our administrative support staff to perform tasks such as booking appointments and communicating with you and other areas of Queensland Health.

Sometimes your local doctor may contact us for information about your treatment. In this case we may give them these details. If you do not want this to happen, please let us know as soon as possible.

If you receive health care at a service or residential care facility that is not operated by Queensland Health, and that facility contacts us to obtain information about you, we will release health information to help your treatment.

In other situations we will usually obtain your consent prior to releasing any information.

When information may be disclosed

There may be occasions when we need to use or disclose some of your information, such as:

  • ensuring you receive appropriate treatment and follow-up care.
  • undertaking quality assurance activities and other activities that help us monitor and improve the way we operate.
  • professional supervision or mentoring of our staff.
  • patient satisfaction surveys (responding to surveys is entirely voluntary and all responses are anonymous).
  • helping us to code and de-identify records.
  • addressing liability indemnity arrangements, which may require giving information to a medical expert, insurer, medical defence organisation or a lawyer.
  • providing information in relation to matter to a lawyer who is representing the State or a Hospital and Health Service in relation to the matter.
  • billing or recovering debt in relation to services received.

In some circumstances we are legally obliged to disclose information about you, such as:

  • if your records have been subpoenaed for a court case
  • legal requirements to collect information about particular health conditions such as life-threatening diseases or diseases with high public health risks.

We will ensure that any such disclosure is limited to only what is necessary.

On occasion, information may be used for research that will help us to improve healthcare practices without your consent.  All research involving Queensland Health patients must undergo ethics consideration and be authorised by the chief executive before it can be conducted.

Accessing your health records

You have the right to apply for access to information held in your health records.

To apply for access to your medical records, contact the RTI decision-maker at your HHS.

When seeking access to your health information, you will need to provide evidence of your identity, such as:

  • passport
  • copy of a certificate or extract from a register of births
  • driver’s licence
  • if the applicant is a prisoner, a copy of the person’s identity card certified by a corrective services officer.

You will need to provide a certified copy of these documents. If you don’t have any of the listed documents, talk to the HHS about other accepted evidence of identity documents.

If your application cannot be processed under an administrative access scheme, it will generally be referred for processing under the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld).

Other people’s health records

If you want to access someone else’s records (e.g. a relative), and you do not have or are unable to obtain their consent, you will need to make a Right to Information application.

If you are an agent acting on behalf of someone else (e.g. solicitors accessing information for their client), you may need to provide additional information with your application.  This may include patient consent and evidence of your identity as their agent.

Amending information in your medical records

If there is information in your health record that is incorrect or which you do not agree with, you can apply for it to be amended under the Information Privacy Act 2009.  You will need to provide details of why the information may be inaccurate, incomplete, out of date or misleading, For more information, contact the RTI decision-maker at your HHS.

Sexual health records

We understand that you may be concerned about your sexual health information being shared. Knowing your sexual health information may help your clinician to offer you appropriate care where the information is relevant to the care. Staff of the sexual health clinic will only reveal information held in your sexual health record in the circumstances outlined in the Respecting your privacy in sexual health clinics fact sheet.

You may have the option to opt-off the system by signing a patient opt-off declaration form. Signing this declaration will mean that the existence of your sexual health record will not be flagged or made available on other record or data systems outside the sexual health clinic, and only staff of the sexual health clinic will have a record that you attend the clinic. Please discuss this decision with your clinician before completing the opt-off form.

If you elect to opt-off the standard system by signing this form, Queensland Health will not be liable for any consequences of your health information not being available to staff at other Queensland Health facilities.

You can elect to opt-on to the standard system at any time by alerting staff of the sexual health clinic in which you originally completed your declaration form, and completing another declaration form.

Sharing your sexual health information

In addition to the occasions when we need to use or disclose some of your information, we are obliged by law to notify some positive test results to the Communicable Diseases Unit of the Department of Health. These records are kept securely and only authorised staff have access. If you have elected to opt-off, a positive test result is still notified, but no personal identifying information is provided. 

Sexual health tests

When pathology tests are being ordered for you, you have the option to preserve your anonymity by using a coding system. This means that instead of putting your full name on a test, a code is used to ensure only staff from the clinic know that the tests that have been ordered and their results are about you.

Please talk to your clinician about using this option.

Pap smear results for women

Under Queensland law the results of all women who have had pap smears are reported to the Queensland Pap Smear Register (PSR). The PSR is a central and confidential register that provides women with a reminder if their pap smear is overdue or they need follow-up for an abnormal pap smear.

When you have a pap smear, your results and personal details, including your name and address will automatically be sent to the PSR unless you advise the clinic that you wish to opt-off the register. You can also do this by contacting the PSR on 1800 777 790.

More information

For more information about how Queensland Health manages your personal information or to make a complaint about privacy, contact the Privacy and Confidentiality Contact Officer at your HHS.

To apply for access to your health information, contact the RTI decision-maker at your HHS.

Last updated: 13 June 2014