People concerned about the privacy implications of a move to transferable electronic health and medical records should not be dissuaded by doubt as the benefits outweigh potential drawbacks, according to health industry executives.\nDr Tim Smyth, deputy director-general of NSW Health, said it is very interesting times in NSW as the state is \u201cbeavering on\u201d with the rollout of electronic medical records and is undertaking a business case for the provision of an electronic prescribing service.\nSmyth is adamant privacy concerns around electronic medical records are overstated and can lead to unnecessary concerns.\n\u201cI\u2019ve never seen privacy as an obstacle and it\u2019s often used as an excuse by some players not to do anything,\u201d Smyth said.\n\u201cHealthelink in NSW was all opt-in and about 90,000 people are using it. Only a small percentage have left the service.\u201d\nSpeaking at an AIIA CIO eHealth forum in Sydney, Smyth says privacy is about the information a person wants other people to know about him or herself and it is often confused with the security of information.\n\u201cBeing able to transfer information is critical [and] e-health has the potential to reduce errors,\u201d he said.\nIn the case of Healthelink, only authorised health care providers are able to view records and health care providers given access to Healthelink must sign an agreement to \u201crespect the privacy of records and to maintain confidentiality of the information\u201d.\nPrivacy group Civil Liberties Australia (CLA), in a letter to the federal health department, said in 2009 it supports the use of new technology to improve patient health and safety, provided a patient\u2019s ownership and control of the information is safeguarded.\nThe CLA believes only a patient should be able approve the use of his or her data, except in a medical emergency, and any alleged breach of ownership, control or privacy of a patient\u2019s data is subject to both civil and criminal legal processes.\nSt Vincent\u2019s Mater Health Sydney CIO, David Roffe, said in his experience, people in chronic care generally want to share their health information.\n\u201cE-health systems for medication management does reduce errors [and] NEHTA-compliant secure messaging is the way forward,\u201d Roffe said.\nRoffe said the prospect of public software vendors entering the realm of electronic medical records is not necessarily a conflict with government-funded or private medical care initiatives.\n\u201cThere is a good opportunity for providers like Google and Microsoft to allow people to manage their own health records and not just \u2018leave it to the system\u2019,\u201d he said, adding people are unlikely to adopt an e-health system without some form of mandate.\nDeloitte e-health consultant, Adam Powick, said 80 per cent of Australians don\u2019t understand we have a problem with e-health.\n\u201cPeople place a great deal of trust in the health system and for good reason,\u201d he said. \u201cYou can\u2019t advertise e-health as being a \u2018good\u2019 thing. It will be need to be targeted at problem areas and the generational change.\u201d\nRegarding information security, Smyth said passwords remain a problem and can \u201cdrive people crazy\u201d.\n\u201cIn NSW if you are a doctor and you move from Blacktown hospital to one in the city you have to change your password because they run on different systems. I am working to get that unified,\u201d he said.\nPrivacy Commissioner calls for multi-faceted e-health framework\nAustralian Privacy Commissioner Karen Curtis says the office has maintained a long-standing interest in the development of e-health initiatives as they relate to the collection and handling of personal information.\n\u201cEnsuring that privacy is adequately addressed is fundamental to achieving community trust in e-health information systems and gaining consumer acceptance and take-up of the new systems,\u201d Curtis said. \u201cHaving said that, my office welcomes the government\u2019s assurances that a personal electronic health record scheme will be developed on an \u2018opt-in\u2019 basis.\u201d\nThe commissioner recommends governments adopt a multifaceted approach to privacy which is \u201cessential in building a robust privacy framework for a national e-health information system\u201d.\n\u201cA comprehensive framework for privacy protection should be built into an e-health initiative based on design, technology, legislation and oversight,\u201d Curtis said.