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Healthcare identifiers

What is an individual healthcare identifier (IHI)?

An IHI is a unique 16 digit number used to identify individuals under the My Health Record system. You need to have an IHI to be eligible to register for a My Health Record.

IHIs are also intended to help healthcare providers communicate information with other providers accurately, for example, by providing a more reliable way of referencing patient information electronically.

IHIs were automatically allocated to all Australians who were enrolled with Medicare on 1 July 2010. They can also be allocated for any other person seeking healthcare in Australia. They are issued by the Healthcare Identifiers Service, which is operated by Medicare.

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What information will be held in the Healthcare Identifiers Service database?

A limited amount of identifying information such as your name, date of birth and gender will be associated with your IHI in the database maintained by the Healthcare Identifiers Service, which is operated by Medicare.

In some circumstances, further information may be required to ensure you are uniquely identified in the database such as: address, Medicare number, Department of Veterans' Affairs file number, or aliases.

The Healthcare Identifiers Service database does not hold any clinical information. It does hold information about who has accessed the database to obtain your IHI.

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How will my IHI be used in the My Health Record system?

Your IHI can be used to gain access to your My Health Record. This is why it is important that your IHI is kept secure. Sometimes your IHI will be sufficient to access your My Health Record. However other information may also be required, such as your ‘access code’.

Your healthcare providers will be able to request your IHI from the Healthcare Identifiers Service without your consent (see Do healthcare providers need my consent to collect my IHI?) if they have enough information to identify you. If you don’t want them to use your IHI to access your My Health Record, you can set up an access code to restrict who can access your My Health Record. Then your record can only be accessed by entering the code, except in an emergency.

Your IHI will also be used to help ensure that the right clinical documents are associated with your My Health Record. It will also be used to draw clinical documents that are linked to your IHI from registered data repositories (such as a pathology database) and attach them to your My Health Record.

Under the Healthcare Identifiers Act 2010 people who have access to your IHI must keep it secure and can only collect, use and disclose it for limited purposes (see How can my IHI be used or disclosed? below).

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Will an IHI affect how my health information is handled?

No. Healthcare providers still have to comply with their existing privacy and health legal obligations when handling your personal information.

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How can my IHI be used or disclosed?

Healthcare providers and other organisations that collect your IHI (such
as organisations contracted by a provider to perform services on the provider’s
behalf) may only use or disclose your healthcare identifier for communicating
and managing health information as part of the:

  • provision of healthcare to you
  • management, funding, monitoring or evaluation of healthcare
  • provision of medical indemnity cover
  • conducting of research approved by a Human Research Ethics Committee
  • need to lessen or prevent a serious threat to your or another individual’s life, health or safety or to public health or safety.

Healthcare providers may also use or disclose a healthcare identifier if this is required or authorised by law. For example, a provider may be legally compelled to disclose an IHI under a court subpoena. A provider may also disclose an IHI in order to report unlawful activity, such as a suspected case of child abuse.

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How is my IHI protected?

Healthcare providers and other organisations that collect your IHI can only use or disclose it for specific purposes (see How can my IHI be used or disclosed? above). They must also put security systems and procedures in place to protect your IHI against misuse, loss and unauthorised access, modification or disclosure.

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What do I do if I think someone has inappropriately handled my IHI?

If you believe your IHI has not been handled properly, first contact the healthcare provider. If you are not happy with their response, you can complain to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). Call our Enquiries Line or go to the Individuals section of our website.

The OAIC can investigate complaints against private sector healthcare providers and Australian and ACT Government agencies.

The OAIC also has the power to investigate healthcare identifier complaints against state or territory bodies (such as public hospitals), unless the state or territory legislates to give that power to another regulatory body. Currently no state or territory has nominated a local regulator and the OAIC is responsible for all complaints.

Individuals or organisations who inappropriately use or disclose an IHI may commit a criminal offence.

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No. Healthcare providers will be able to automatically access your IHI from the Healthcare Identifiers Service in the course of providing healthcare to you, with or without your consent.

IHIs can only be retrieved from the Healthcare Identifiers Service operator (Medicare) by authorised employees of healthcare providers who are registered with the Healthcare Identifiers Service.

Healthcare providers can only use or disclose the healthcare identifiers they collect for limited purposes (see How can my IHI be used or disclosed? above).

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Will I still be able to access healthcare anonymously?

Yes. IHIs will not alter how anonymous healthcare services are currently provided. If you seek healthcare anonymously, your IHI will not be used by your healthcare provider.

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Am I able to access information that the Healthcare Identifiers Service holds about me?

Yes. The HI Service is able to provide you or your authorised representative with access to the information associated with your IHI and an audit log of which organisations have been provided with your IHI.

For more information on IHI, see the Healthcare identifiers page.

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Where can I get more information?

You can contact the Healthcare Identifier Service enquiries line on 1300 361 457 or by email: healthcareidentifiers@humanservices.gov.au.

You can also visit the Healthcare Identifiers Service’s website for further information:

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