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Privacy and managing health information in general practice

Use and disclosure of health information

Use for primary and secondary purposes

Last revised: 24 May 2023

Use for primary and secondary purposes

Use for primary and secondary purposes

  • A GP’s primary purpose for collecting health information is to provide healthcare services.
  • Your practice might use and disclose health information for that ‘primary’ purpose.
  • To decide whether it is appropriate to release de-identified healthcare data at the request of an external organisation, refer to Guiding principles for managing requests for the secondary use of de-identified general practice data. This provides decision-making support and a checklist.
  • Health information might be used or disclosed for another ‘secondary’ purpose where:
    • the patient consents
    • the patient would expect a use or disclosure related to their healthcare
    • it is unreasonable to seek consent when the collection of information is necessary to lessen or prevent a serious threat to life, health or safety of an individual or the public
    • the use or disclosure is necessary to lessen or prevent a serious threat to the life, health or safety of another individual who is a genetic relative of the individual
    • the patient is physically or legally incapable of giving consent and the health information is disclosed to a responsible person (which might include parents, adult siblings, spouses, adult relatives, guardians or attorneys granted power concerning health decisions) for compassionate reasons or to allow appropriate care or treatment of the patient.
  • A practice might use or disclose health information as required or authorised by or under law.
  • Practices are responsible for information disclosed overseas.

Useful RACGP resource

 

  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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