Can I have my medical records destroyed in Australia?
December 25, 2015 9:50 PM   Subscribe

I would like my medical records held by a private general practice destroyed. I am in Queensland, Australia. How can I do this? Is it possible? There are no insurance issues and I am in complete charge of my own legal affairs and a private citizen.
posted by esto-again to Law & Government (9 answers total)
It looks like the providers are legally required to retain the records for ten years.
posted by jaguar at 9:59 PM on December 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thanks Jaguar. Can I have them suppressed, hidden or embargoed then?
posted by esto-again at 11:16 PM on December 25, 2015

It's not totally clear what you're asking in your follow up. Is there someone specific you're afraid will be able to access the records whom you don't want to have access to them? What's the underlying problem you're trying to solve?
posted by decathecting at 11:24 PM on December 25, 2015 [5 favorites]

If you disagree with something in your medical records, you can request to have a note added to your file that outlines your own explanation of the situation. I don't think it's possible to have your records removed entirely.
posted by embrangled at 11:33 PM on December 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

The link provided by jaguar is about Queensland health (ie the government health service) only and has nothing to do with private general practice.

Legally, the records are the intellectual property of the practice. If they won't destroy them if you ask (and I imagine they won't, because medical records are the only defence if there are future legal issues) I imagine you'll have to get a lawyer involved. But I'm speculating.
posted by chiquitita at 12:46 AM on December 26, 2015

Nope. The records belong to the practice, not to you.
posted by JeanDupont at 2:31 AM on December 26, 2015

I'm not sure that this would do what you hope it will. Any specialists you saw during that time frame will probably have a copy of at least parts of it from up until they first saw you, likewise any hospitals that you were admitted to. A copy of the results of any testing done at the request of the practice but not performed by the practice will be on record at the testing location, though they may or may not still have a copy of the request to have the testing done. And if the records are stored electronically it may not be realistically possible to do so due to precautions taken to avoid the potential for accidental deletions. In short if you are serious about getting those records deleted you will want to talk to a lawyer and be prepared to head down a deep and complicated rabbit hole.
posted by Meeks Ormand at 6:55 AM on December 26, 2015

An added complication is that even though say there's no insurance and it's a private GP practice; assuming you are an Australian citizen you would have presented your Medicare card. So they have a record of the type of consultation. If you've checked out your record on the mygov Medicare site you will see it lists all the providers you've seen and the type of visit billed and an overview of any pathology tests ordered ( since they are mostly bulk billed). Also those providers, if you use one of the big ones, will provide results of previous tests you've had done so the doc can see a trend even if the doc ordering the most recent tests only met you recently.

If I had a bad experience with a doctor or practice I would start afresh at a new one. They never obtain results from previous providers, you have to give your medical history yourself. If there's stuff you really don't want them to know they won't compell you to tell ( though it could compromise your care, I guess). Basically, the easiest way is to pretend your attendance at that practice never happened and find another GP. Eventuality the files will be archived and then destroyed if you are no longer an active patient. I've seen doctors all over and I doubt there would be any way of collating those files even if my life depended on it.

I'm not a doctor, don't work for a GP but I have a whole team of specialists and a beloved GP at a private practice (in NSW) who coordinates it all for me.
posted by kitten magic at 7:22 AM on December 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

The records are owned by the medical practice. In some states and territories, they are required to keep them for a minimum of seven years after the date of the last entry. Elsewhere, there is no minimum requirement but it is difficult to imagine a responsible practice maintaining them for a shorter period given the risk of malpractice law suits, etc.

You have the right to inspect the records under the Commonwealth Privacy Act, and to correct any inaccurate personal information they contain, but not to destroy them.

You may be able to prevent them sharing those records with other health services providers. Their disclosure of the records is covered by the National Privacy Principles, which apply strict consent-based limits on what disclosure can be made. However, this is a fairly arcane area and ianyl so you should call the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner for clarification. (But be warned, they are chronically understaffed because the Government has completely gutted their office despite the Senate blocking attempts to formally abolish them.)

However, I'd start by writing to them and asking that they do not disclose your records to anybody without your express written consent, and seeing what response you get.
posted by robcorr at 2:59 PM on December 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

« Older What should I do in the next chapter of my life?   |   How did you get a new city to feel like home? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.