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Last updated 23 June 2016

Frequently asked question – Emergency Access, why would you use it and what does it mean when you do?

Published 23 June 2016


In an emergency, can I gain access to a patient’s My Health Record

Registered healthcare organisations are permitted to collect, use or disclose information in a patient’s My Health Record if it is unreasonable or impracticable to obtain consent from them or their authorised representative, and they reasonably believe that this is necessary to lessen or prevent a serious threat to the patient or another individual’s life, health or safety.

An example would be if the patient is unconscious in an emergency situation.

Registered healthcare organisations can also collect, use and disclose the information in a patient’s My Health Record without the consent of the patient or their authorised representative if the organisation reasonably believes that it is necessary in order to lessen or prevent a serious threat to public health or safety.

An example would be where a dangerous infection has been detected within a hospital and it is necessary to identify the source of the infection to prevent its spread.

Emergency access is recorded in the access history of the My Health Record which can be viewed by the patient or their authorised representative. The patient can also choose to be notified if and when anyone gains emergency access to their My Health Record.

What information can I access?

Under emergency access, all information in My Health Record can be accessed except for:

  • Documents that have been removed by the patient, and
  • Information entered by the patient in the personal health notes section of their My Health Record.
  • Emergency access is available regardless of any access controls set by the healthcare recipient. For example, if a patient has set a Record Access Code (RAC) to their My Health Record, and they arrive unconscious at an Emergency Department of a hospital that doesn’t have their RAC, the hospital can access the My Health Record using emergency access.

    Emergency access is granted for five days from the time the organisation asserts an emergency exists. Once this period ends, the organisation will only be able to access the patient’s My Health Record in accordance with their access controls. If the emergency still exists, the organisation can gain emergency access again (for another five days).

    For more information, please visit the frequently asked questions on emergency access available on the My Health Record website

Last updated 23 June 2016