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Privacy Law and Policy Reporter

Privacy Law and Policy Reporter (PLPR)
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Information provided by the National Pharmacy Intranet Demonstration Project --- "National pharmacy intranet demonstration project" [1998] PrivLawPRpr 58; (1998) 5(3) Privacy Law & Policy Reporter 56

National pharmacy intranet demonstration project

This information is provided by the National Pharmacy Intranet Demonstration Project. The project is clearly one of considerable significance to privacy — General Editor.

The project is an initiative of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, through Guild Commercial, in partnership with the Department of Health and Family Services and the Health Insurance Commission. The project seeks to demonstrate the technical feasibility, cost-effectiveness and accepta-bility of a pharmacy intranet. The project is undertaking a number of activities. First off, the project is trialing electronic entitlement checking. Other activities include:

The intranet will also enable pharmacists to share information with one another — information about policies, practice and professional issues. The project thinks that going online will result in many benefits — better, faster and more accurate service for consumers; more efficient communication with government and regulatory bodies; and most importantly better communication for better health care.

The National Pharmacy Intranet Demonstration Project is developing the framework on which we can build. The demonstration project is being evaluated to help determine the likely costs and benefits of a national pharmacy intranet.

Privacy and the project

The National Pharmacy Intranet Demonstration Project takes privacy, confidentiality and control access and use of data very seriously. The project has a national consultative committee examining these issues among other things. Members of the consultative committee include representatives of the Australian Medical Association, Royal Australian College of General Practice, the Privacy Commissioner’s office and consumer organisations including Consumer Health Forum, Council on the Ageing (Australia); and the Australian Pensioners and Superannuant’s Federation.

The consultative committee has worked hard to develop a privacy framework within which the project operates. The privacy framework is based on the eleven privacy principles as set out in the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) and the Australian Standard AS4400 (1995) Personal Privacy Protection in Health Care Information Systems. All consumer participation is by informed consent.

Community consultation

A public consultation process is being held so as to inform the development of a privacy framework for a future national pharmacy intranet. The consultation will explore public policy issues, including the maintenance of confidentiality and privacy; and control, access and use of data, which may arise in relation to a national pharmacy intranet.

There are a number of potential benefits and potential costs for a range of stakeholders including: Consumers; Pharmacists; wider community; medical practitioners; Commonwealth Government; State and Territory Governments

The consultation will ask whether the benefits outweigh the costs? Both in general, and for individuals?

A range of technical solutions are available to safeguard privacy and confidentiality. These include the use of PINs, smart cards, access audit trails, and encryption. Policy and legal solutions include development and adoption of privacy framework including strong penalties for infringement of privacy and misuse of data.

What are the policies and practices needed to protect privacy? In the absence of Commonwealth privacy legislation for the private sector, what additional safeguards are required to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of information transmitted via a pharmacy intranet and stored in a central data repository?

A brief discussion paper is being prepared and written submissions will be invited. Closing date for submissions is Friday 30 October.

Public meetings will be held as follows:

Canberra 22 September

Launceston 28 September

Hobart 29 September

Melbourne 6 October

Brisbane 7 October

Sydney 13 October

Adelaide 14 October

For more information ring the project office on 1800 676 180, or email Dina Bowman, Project Coordinator at

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