Australian Physiotherapy Association Page 2 of 4
The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) welcomes the opportunity tocomment on the impact of the private sector privacy provisions onphysiotherapists and their patients. The APA has over 10,000 members, morethan half of whom work in the private sector. Comments in this submission areconfined to issues surrounding access to patient records. This submissionaddresses members concerns in complying with privacy legislation in the faceof pressure from health funds, solicitors and third party insurers. It alsoaddresses the concerns the APA has in keeping our membership properlyinformed about their obligations under the privacy act.
Privacy principles in the health sector
All physiotherapy businesses no matter how small are obliged to comply withprivate sector privacy legislation. The APA agrees that ensuring health privacyis important. Health information is sensitive personal information, and the APAsupports patients’ right to control access to that information. The APA iscommitted to supporting its members to apply the principles outlined in thelegislation and to consistently protect their patients’ privacy.
Inconsistency in privacy legislation
Physiotherapy Business Australia (PBA), a subgroup of the APA for privatepractitioners, is conscientious in informing its members of their obligationsunder privacy legislation. Consequently, most full time physiotherapy privatepractitioners are well informed about privacy legislation. However, otherphysiotherapists who work part-time or move between the public and privatesectors are less likely to be aware of their obligations under privacylegislation.Due to the federated structure of the Australian government, private sectorprivacy provisions vary from state to state and between the state andcommonwealth. The enquiry specifically asks whether this is a problem; in thecase of physiotherapists the answer is yes. Inconsistency in the legislationacross federal and state jurisdictions creates confusion for members who arecaught in the middle of conflicting information. The wide variety of legislationalso creates difficulties for the APA and PBA in keeping abreast of changingand sometimes conflicting legislation. Differences in the legislation across jurisdictions also make it impossible for the APA and PBA to put out aconsistent message to members about their privacy obligations.
Sharing of health information between treatingclinicians
Health professionals often treat patients as part of a multidisciplinary team.Protocols for sharing of patient information between treating clinicians need toconform to privacy regulations. As electronic methods of information transferbecome more widely used, there is a need for greater levels of awareness ofhow to protect information transferred in this way. The APA urges the Privacy