What is an individual healthcare identifier?

Last updated: 8 August 2019

On this page

  • Why the My Health Record system uses individual healthcare identifiers
  • How you get one and who can handle it
  • What to do if you suspect your individual healthcare identifier has been mishandled

An individual healthcare identifier (IHI) is a unique 16-digit number the My Health Record system uses to identify an individual. It also helps healthcare providers communicate accurately with each other and identify and access patient records in the My Health Record system.

You need an IHI to be eligible to register for a My Health Record.

How do you get an IHI?

The Healthcare Identifiers Service, which Medicare runs, issues IHIs. If you already have a Medicare card or a Department of Veterans’ Affairs card, you also have an IHI. The Healthcare Identifiers Service has automatically allocated one to you.

To apply for an IHI, visit the Medicare website.

What information does an IHI associate with me?

The Healthcare Identifiers Service’s database holds identifying information with your IHI such as your name, date of birth and gender. However, to make sure you’re uniquely identified the database may also include your address, Medicare number, Department of Veterans’ Affairs file number or aliases.

The database also holds information about who accessed your IHI. It doesn’t hold any clinical information.

Can I access the information?

Yes. You or a person you've authorised, such as a legal guardian or authorised agent, can access the information associated with your IHI and a log of the organisations who have been given your IHI.

To access the information associated with your IHI, sign in to myGov and then click Medicare.

How does the My Health Record’s system use your IHI?

To access your My Health Record

A healthcare provider can use your IHI to accesses your My Health Record.

When supplying health care to you, a healthcare provider can ask the Healthcare Identifiers Service for your IHI without your consent if they have enough information to identify you. 

If you want to restrict which healthcare providers may access your My Health Record, you can set up an access code. A healthcare provider will then need both your access code and your IHI to access your My Health Record for the first time (except in a medical emergency).

To include the right documents on your My Health Record

Your IHI makes sure that the right clinical documents are included in your My Health Record. For example, a document in a registered data repository (such as a pathology database) that is linked to your IHI can be included in your My Health Record.

Who can handle my IHI?

A healthcare provider or other party that collects your IHI (such as an organisation that a healthcare provider contracts to supply services on their behalf) may only use or disclose your IHI for communicating and managing health information to:

  • supply health care
  • manage, fund, monitor or evaluate health care
  • supply medical indemnity cover
  • conduct research a Human Research Ethics Committee has approved
  • lessen or prevent a serious threat to your or another’s life, health or safety or to public health or safety

A healthcare provider may also use or disclose an IHI when the law authorises or requires it. For example, by order of a court or if a healthcare provider is reporting unlawful activity such as suspected child abuse.

A healthcare provider still needs to comply with existing privacy and health laws when handling your personal information.

How is my IHI protected?

Under the Healthcare Identifiers Act 2010 a heathcare provider’s security and procedures must protect your IHI against misuse, loss and unauthorised access, modification or disclosure.

If you suspect your IHI has been mishandled

If you suspect your IHI has been mishandled, contact the healthcare provider or the party you think is at fault to make a complaint. They should generally respond to your complaint in 30 days.

If they don’t respond to your complaint, or you’re not satisfied with their response, you can lodge a complaint with us. 

When we can investigate a complaint about an IHI

We can investigate an IHI complaint against a private sector healthcare provider and an Australian or ACT Government agency.

We can also investigate an IHI complaint against a state or territory agency (such as public hospitals), unless the state or territory legislates to give that power to another regulator. Currently, no state or territory has nominated a local regulator and we’re responsible for all IHI complaints.

An individual or organisation who inappropriately uses or discloses an IHI may commit a criminal offence.

For more information about your IHI, phone the Healthcare Identifier Service enquiries line on 1300 361 457 or email healthcare@humanservices.gov.au

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