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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D.Right
Guest
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… Read more »
Madame Zena
Guest
@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… Read more »
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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.

Madame Zena
Guest
@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… Read more »
D.Right
Guest
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… Read more »
workcovervictim3
Guest
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… Read more »
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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… Read more »
Trinny
Guest

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.

HuntingWorkcover
Guest

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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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!!!