Patient privacy concerns over ‘disturbing’ new laws

MEDICARE has been granted Commonwealth powers to force GPs to hand over patient records, prompting concerns that non-medical bureaucrats will be able to lawfully inspect confidential personal information.

Legislation passed by Federal Parliament last week, backed by both major parties, will increase Medicare compliance audits fivefold and will force doctors to produce requested documentation – including patient notes – when suspected of inappropriate claims.

Previously, doctors have not been legally obliged to provide documents, and one in five has refused when audited, the Federal Government claims. Under the new laws, however, doctors face hefty fines for refusing to cooperate with Medicare.

Dr Brian Morton, chair of the AMA’s Council of General Practice, branded the legislation “disturbing” and said it would lead to the invasion of patient privacy.

“In the past, the only people who could look at