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Privacy and managing health information in general practice

Use and disclosure of health information

Subpoenas and disclosure required by law

Last revised: 24 May 2023

Subpoenas and disclosure required by law

In certain circumstances, GPs are required to disclose health information regarding communicable diseases, child abuse or for mandatory reporting purposes.

GPs might also receive requests for medical files as part of legal proceedings. These requests may occur where a patient is suing the GP or another organisation (such as an insurer) and the medical records are relevant, and appropriate legal advice should be sought where necessary.

What information is considered necessary is assessed on a case-by-case basis. If a GP deems it inappropriate to provide a patient’s complete health record despite a subpoena, they might have to justify this decision to the court. GPs and their practice should consult their own medical indemnity provider when considering responses to legal requests for medical information.

GPs might charge reasonable administration fees to produce these documents. The Australian Medical Association establishes a schedule of professional fees for this.9

 

  1. Australian Government, Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. Australian Privacy Principles quick reference. 2014 [Accessed 7 November 2022].
  2. National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Research Council, Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee. National statement on ethical conduct in human research (2007) (updated 2018). 2018 [Accessed 16 January 2023].
  3. Commonwealth of Australia. Privacy Act 1988.1988 [Accessed 7 November 2022].
  4. Australian Government, Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. Australian Privacy Principles guidelines: Privacy Act 1988. 2015 [Accessed 16 January 2023].
  5. Australian Government, Attorney-General. Parliament approves Government’s privacy penalty bill. 2022 [Accessed 16 January 2023].
  6. Medical Board of Australia, AHPRA. Good medical practice: A code of conduct for doctors in Australia. 2020 [Accessed 16 January 2023].
  7. Australian Government, Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. Business resource. Chapter 9: Research. 2019 [Accessed 16 January 2023].
  8. Australian Government, Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. Chapter 5: APP 5 – Notification of the collection of personal information. 2019 [Accessed 8 November 2022].
  9. Australian Medical Association. Frequently asked questions – Fees. [date unknown] [Accessed 8 November 2022].
  10. Australian Government, Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. Privacy for organisations: Trading in personal information. [date unknown] [Accessed 16 January 2023].
  11. National Health and Medical Research Council. Use and disclosure of genetic information to a patient’s genetic relatives under Section 95AA of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) – Guidelines for health practitioners in the private sector. 2014 [Accessed 16 January 2023].

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