Disclosing health information about WorkCover patients – beware

disclosing-health-information-workcover

Referring back to our article titled “Obtaining injured workers medical records – revoke permissions once your claim has finalised” whereby we highlighted the importance of revoking your (the injured worker) automatic consent for workcover and their insurers to access your medical information, once your claim has been finalised; thanks to our co-author Trinny, we stumbled upon WorkSafe Victoria’s rather disturbing published “guide” titled “Disclosing health information about WorkCover patients: A guide for healthcare professionals.

Disclosing health information about WorkCover patients – Workcover Vic

Medical practitioners have both an ethical and a legal duty to protect the confidentiality of the information acquired as a result of the management of patients (incl. injured workers).  Confidentiality of a patient’s medical information is not breached if the patient has consented to the release of the information.  The medical authority that appears on the Claim Form for workers compensation, which you (the injured worker) signs when lodging a workcover claim, basically automatically gives workcover and their agents access to your medical history/file.

What is perhaps disturbing is that Under the HRA (Health Record Act 2001 (Vic)) a healthcare professional may also disclose health information about a patient’s (injured worker) work related injury to the VWA (Victorian WorkCover Authority) or its Agents (= workcover insurers) without their consent in a number of circumstances relevant to the assessment and management of the patient’s WorkCover claim, including where:

A) the purpose of disclosing the health information is directly related to the primary purpose for which information was collected and the (injured) worker would reasonably expect the information to be disclosed for that purpose.

Healthcare professionals collect health information about a patient for the primary purpose of treating and managing their injury.

The key reasons for disclosing a patient’s (injured worker) health information to the VWA or its Agents are to:

  • provide relevant medical or treatment information about the patient’s work related injury
  • assist in the assessment and management of the patient’s WorkCover claim, and
  • facilitate the patient’s rehabilitation and return to work.

The VWA considers these to be directly related to the primary purpose.

It is the VWA’s view that a patient would objectively expect such a disclosure when they make a claim for compensation (WTF)

B) a law requires, authorises or permits the disclosure.

The disclosure of health information about a patient’s (injured worker) work related injury, to the VWA or its Agent, as part of the assessment and management of the patient’s WorkCover claim is necessary to achieve the objectives and functions of the Act, which include promoting the effective occupational rehabilitation of injured workers and their return to work while managing the compensation scheme effectively, efficiently and economically.

As such, the VWA considers that the Act authorises or permits healthcare professionals to disclose this information.

Healthcare professionals have a duty under their professional code of ethics to maintain the confidentiality of their professional–patient relationship.

However, this duty is not absolute and there are some important exceptions, including where another law permits the disclosure, such as under the HRA.
  • It is the VWA’s view that healthcare professionals are not in breach of the law if they provide health information about a patient to the VWA or its Agents as part of the assessment and management of the patient’s WorkCover claim in the circumstances outlined above.
  • The VWA and its Agents seek only to collect health information about a patient that relates to the management of the patient’s work related injury.

Billing Review – beware

We also know for a fact that, for example, when WorkCover undertakes a (random) “billing review” of a healthcare professional, the healthcare professional (i.e. your psychologist, psychiatrist, surgeon etc) has to submit within a short timeframe, a (usually) random number (5-8) of injured workers’ files to workcover. Again, when this happens, the Authority clearly states on the “Billing review” that the healthcare professional does NOT need the injured worker’s consent to disclose this (at times very confidential) information!

So, chances are that your very confidential and private discussions with your treating psychologist for example, may, at some stage, be fully disclosed to workcover (all notes made by your treating psych).  Now, how creepy is this, folks?

Again, knowledge is power, which means that you, the injured worker, need to keep in mind that ANY of your discussions, notes etc can simply be copied and handed over in full to workcover.

When we are at our most vulnerable, for example having much needed psych counseling, what we say to our treating psychologist is NOT confidential. You may be suffering from a major depression, be suicidal because of the after-effects of your workplace injury (incl. the way you may have or are being treated by workcover et al.; and you may also disclose for example that your marriage is affected (because of your depression, which is related to your injury)… and yep, there you go, if such private information comes in the hands of workcover et.al, chances are that they will be using “some things you may have said” AGAINST you; by taking it out of context. I.e blame your marriage breakdown for your depression….

In our humble and injured opinion, we believe this is a gross violation of our civil, basic privacy rights!

Disclosing health information about WorkCover patients; A guide for healthcare professionals

Direct link to the document >>

 

[Dictated by WCV and manually transcribed and posted on behalf of workcovervictim]

 

Related post

Obtaining injured workers medical records – revoke permissions once your claim has finalised



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11 Responses to “Disclosing health information about WorkCover patients – beware”

  1. Curious. How much of this personal information finds it’s way into research conducted under the Workcover banner. The implications of how far this information can travel and for what purposes need some answers.

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    • If i had document (evidence) stating that they have breach my privacy. i would use ALL this information against workcover victoria/insurers and sue them accordingly.

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      HuntingWorkcover October 10, 2013 at 5:20 pm
      • In our humble and injured opinion, we believe this is a gross violation of our civil, basic privacy rights! yes but and blatantly in your face they don’t give a shit about the law and make it up as they go!!!!!!! Get used too it we have been chinarised!!!

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        ........................ October 12, 2013 at 8:56 am
  2. The level of corruption i have witnessed arising out of my workcover claim was that disgusting to witness what has become of the people working in australia for the goverment and the insurance company’s (These people will oneday realise what they have sewn out of greed selfishness, complicity and having no guts to stand up for themselves and be a willing participate will reap their own fruits if not then their siblings Australia is becoming a sad story witnessing what is happening to good people by criminals) that alone has forced me to turn the other cheek and walk away…..I have won by doing this by not stooping to their level to aid and abet them in their immoral actions playing their little games with peoples lives……………letting them profiteer from trying to make a liar of me. I include the goverment (councils, fairwork australia, worksafe, accs, workcover assist, Vcat, the whole law industry, several Ombudsmans i dealt with with, the health department all have their hands dirty in my case they stink and can go to hell the lot of them) in this and of course the insurance company it is obvious they all work hand in hand. I was %100 right in all areas that i confronted them with and had a very honest and genuine case yet i did not win a single argument and spent two years defending myself from these people and an attempt to counter sue me for the whole claim, due to their poor supervision, incompetent management and personal financial agenda’s that forced me into an injury when i worked for a local council who i will not name (as much as i want to) as they are that corrupt that if i did it would give them another two years worth of undeserving money fighting me off using council coffers to sue me, This country’s whole goverment needs its internals washed out with bleach.

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    ........................ October 12, 2013 at 9:22 am
  3. I seriously doubt a qualified professional (psychiatrist, surgeon etc) would release medical records without the consent of the patient. Remember that medical files are the property of the doctor who holds them. It is always possible a doctor could release this information without your consent but they would be fully aware that this exposes them to AMA sanctions or worse.

    Just because an insurance company (ie the Devil) says to a doctor they can release medical records, doesnt mean its in that doctors best interests to do so. After all, an insurance company can ask a person to rotate on their head, doesnt mean they have to or it is their best interests to do so.

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    • We actually happen to know for a fact that a certain psychologist, who contacted us and shared his “billing review” request (which we’ll publish) that the workcover “senior inspector” was adamant he handed over the complete file notes of 8 injured workers, and that the health privacy act allows this. This was also written in pretty strong wording on the personal handed-over ‘letter’ (demand) from the workcover senior inspector – outlining that non-cooperation would lead to punishment for obstruction. The psychologist was as shocked as we were and contacted the relevant board, which again stated that he had to cooperate with the inspector’s request from the workcover authority. It is very shocking indeed to know that (random) workcover inspections are exempt from the privacy laws. I’ll ensure that this letter/demand is published (anonymously) for you all to see.

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      workcovervictim3 October 13, 2013 at 3:09 am
  4. @WCV3 is right.

    I remember recently reading something I found on the internet, I think it may have been a presentation at some psychologist conference or workshop and a psychologist with a lot of experience in dealing with WorkCover did a presentation reminding psychologists that if the worker wishes to discuss matters unrelated to their approved WorkCover claim then the psychologist is required to direct the patient to make a separate “private” appointment at their own cost to discuss the matter. The example given was say if an injured worker has been on WorkCover for a while for a physical/psych or psych only injury and has approved sessions with a psychologist for their work related injury, and then say their mum dies and they want to discuss their grief with the psychologist, the psychologist is required to refuse to discuss it in the WorkCover funded session and direct the worker to make a separate appointment with the psychologist to discuss the non-work matter/stresses and pay for the session themselves.

    And the presentation also warned psychologist to be careful as WorkCover reviewed psychologists notes to ensure that only matters relating to the accepted claim are being discussed/counselled at sessions being billed to WorkCover. This will be the “billing reviews” that @WCV3 is referring to. I suspect that it is principally psychologists that are the target of these “billing reviews” as they are more likely to fall into the trap of providing counselling for non-WorkCover claim matters and the line between the work related injury and other non-work related matters can be blurry.

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  5. How exactly do you revoke these privileges.

    Revoking your (the injured worker) automatic consent for workcover and their insurers to access your medical information??

    do we need a lawyer to assist in this task??

    Please give us detailed instructions on how to go about this officially.

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    ........................ October 13, 2013 at 1:10 pm
  6. Perhaps this has something to do with psychologists not being doctors? Not sure but I dont see that you (psychologist, doctor or anyone else) has to hand anything of theirs over to another person without a Court order / warrant etc.

    WorkCover can demand all they want, but so what? The property (files etc) belong to the doctor and they dont have to be handed over just because WorkCover demand them.

    I’ve receive many a demand letter over the years for various things. Just have a laugh at them and file them away. Means nothing and any half reputable doctor would be the same.

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    • @D.Right unfortunately in Victoria if you have a current/ongoing claim and/or legal proceedings there is no ability to revoke the medical release authority. Seeking to do so will have the effect of you terminating your own claim. The release you sign on the claim is quite clear in this regard (see below). From my understanding the same medical release wording is used in VIC, NSW and QLD.

      Your individual treaters do no need to seek your consent to release your medical information, and doctors are well aware that you signed a release on the claim form and as such have to comply with any request for release from the VWA. And you can bet that when treaters sign up with the VWA to be able to bill them for services provided to claimants that the treaters will have to sign an acknowledgement that they acknowledge that the claimant has signed a medical release and as such requests for release of medical information by the VWA must be complied with.

      AUTHORITY TO RELEASE MEDICAL INFORMATION AND WORKER’S DECLARATION

      I have read the information provided in this form. I declare that the information that I have supplied in this form, and any attachments to this form, is true and correct to the best of my knowledge. I understand that the making of a false or misleading claim or false and misleading statement in support of the claim is punishable by law and that I may be prosecuted.
      I authorise and consent to any person who provides a medical service or hospital service to me in connection with an injury/condition to which this claim relates to provide upon request by the workers’ compensation authority, my employer or insurer/claims agent, any information regarding the service relevant to the claim. I understand that my authority has effect and cannot be revoked for the duration of this claim.

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