Healthcare Identifiers Service set to expand

3 minute read

DoHAC’s determination to increase the use of HIs for better data-sharing across the healthcare sector has reached another milestone.

The nationwide expansion of the Healthcare Identifier Service is another step closer with the release of the DoHAC’s report on the public consultation process which began in December 2022.

“An analysis of the 49 submissions reveals general support for the HI Framework Project,” said the authors of the Public consultation outcomes summary, released last week.

“This includes support for expanding the use of healthcare identifiers (HIs) to connect health, aged care, disability and allied health care; administration entities to be able to use HIs; healthcare support providers and organisations being able to use HIs; health technology services being able to use HIs, with a set of standards and a conformance framework; directory/registry providers – including the National Health Services Directory – being able to use HIs, with a set of standard authorisations.”

The service allows healthcare providers to view a person’s information by using a healthcare identifier to access My Health Record. The service assigns and administers healthcare identifiers, which connect the right information with the right individual at the point of care and are considered a cornerstone of the DoHAC’s mission to provide interoperability across the health sector.

To that end the department established the Healthcare Identifiers Framework Project to increase the use of HIs across healthcare, aged care, disability care, allied health, and other healthcare programs and services.

“The main objective of the Project is to ensure the HI Act and HI Service work in a modern healthcare environment, give regulatory support to deliver high-quality healthcare services, and meet strategic, policy, program, and operational goals,” said the DoHAC report.

“Stakeholders did not support amending current prohibitions against using HIs for underwriting or determining insurance or for employment purposes.”

The report found there was strong support from stakeholders for HIs to be used by default across key programs, services and systems to enable better patient identification and information sharing.

“Upholding the privacy and security of patient information, particularly for vulnerable populations, was flagged as important. Responses raised questions about how HIs would be used for people experiencing vulnerability that seek healthcare for sexual health services, child health services and domestic and family violence services,” wrote the authors.

“Suggested changes to the Act to increase connected care outcomes and health system interoperability include:

  • a requirement for software vendors to integrate HIs into clinical information systems;
  • clarifying the definition of “health service” in the Privacy Act; and
  • recognising the increased role of private health insurers as funders, facilitators, and providers of healthcare and associated support services.”

The report details stakeholders’ input on eight key “problem statements” which were the focus of the consultation. These problem statements posed questions about the HI Framework and the Healthcare Identifiers Act 2010 (Cth) (the Act).

Findings from the public consultation are informing draft legislative amendments. They are also informing:

  • the Commonwealth policy position which will outline when and how HIs can be used;
  • the policy implementation plan which will outline how the Commonwealth policy position will be implemented;
  • the privacy impact assessment which will identify how changes to the HI Framework might affect the privacy of individuals; make recommendations for managing, minimising or eliminating those impacts;
  • the policy impact analysis which will consider how changes to the HI Framework will affect businesses, individuals and community organisations, as well as broader economic and other impacts; and
  • education material to support the adoption and use of HIs.

The DoHAC’s HI Framework Project aims to introduce to Parliament the proposed legislative changes in 2024 following further consultation as the scope of the legislative changes is refined.

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