Information access and privacy
Metro North Hospital and Health Service (HHS) 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 unnecessarily.
Metro North HHS is subject to privacy and confidentiality legislation which sets the standards for how we handle your personal information.
On this page
Information collected in health records
When you attend a health facility, a paper record is made that contains:
- your name
- your address and contact details
- the nature of the problem
- your family history
- a diagnosis and treatment
- test results, x-rays and scans
- Medicare and Commonwealth benefit card details.
Health information may be contained in paper records, electronic information systems 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.
Electronic information systems
‘The Viewer’ is a read-only web-based application that sources available electronic information from a number of systems.
It is available to all Department of Health Hospital and Health Services (HHSs), outpatient centres, community centres and primary care centres.
The Australian Government’s Personally Controlled eHealth Record (PCEHR) system is a secure online summary of your health information. You control what goes into it and who is allowed to access it.
Who owns my health 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 providing 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 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 the National Privacy Principles, which deal with how we collect and handle your personal information. 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 within Metro North HHS facilities, talk to the privacy and confidentiality contact officer at your hospital.
Who can access my information?
After your discharge from hospital, the information on your care and treatment will generally be forwarded to your chosen general practitioner (GP). This may include the discharge summary, test results or any special instructions for your continuing care. Should you wish to decline this service, please advise our staff before you are discharged.
Alternatively if your information has not been sent to your doctor/GP upon discharge, your doctor/GP may send a request with your signed consent for the release of the information.
If you receive health care at a service or residential care facility that is not operated by a HHS, and that facility contacts us to obtain information about you, we will release health information to help your treatment.
Your records may be accessed by our administrative support staff to perform tasks such as booking appointments and communicating with other areas of the health service.
When can my information 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 prepare information for public health monitoring
- addressing liability indemnity arrangements, which may require giving information to a medical expert, insurer, medical defence organisation or a lawyer
- providing information to a lawyer who is representing the State or a HHS in relation to a 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
- collecting 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 patients must undergo ethics consideration and be authorised by a chief executive before it can be conducted.