Who might know things about me?
Imagine you are:
- The subject of a complaint by a former patient to the Medical Board about the care you provided to them – the Board decides to take no action, but gave the reasons for its decision to the patient, who then published them on social media, seen widely by your patients. How might this affect your practice?
- Referred for a health assessment by the Medical Board following a patient complaint – the patient is told that you had undergone a health assessment, but no details were released. How might this affect your health and well-being?
- Informed about disciplinary action taken against a colleague who works down the hall from you, but with whom you have little contact and no clinical interactions? Are you supposed to keep an eye on them or do anything about it?
These are some of the potential examples MIGA has had in mind in its advocacy over recent months involving what the Medical Board / AHPRA can share with other bodies and the public about you.
There was significant outcry when the Medical Board announced its decision earlier this year to link externally published court and tribunal decisions involving health practitioners to the practitioner’s public registration page, which is accessible through the AHPRA website.
AHPRA subsequently decided it would only to link those court and tribunal decisions where there were adverse findings against a practitioner, not when there were no adverse findings made.
When patients and other complainants should know reasons for a Board decision
MIGA has been involved in ongoing consultation around how much a patient or complainant should know about the reasons for Medical Board decisions.
We have been aiming for appropriate recognition of doctors’ rights to privacy and avoiding unnecessary disclosure of information. In particular, we advocated against any presumption in favour of disclosing reasons for decisions made to patients or other complainants, and emphasised the range of factors to consider when making a decision on whether to do so including information being taken out of context and used in other, unintended ways (for example in coronial processes or civil damages claims).
When AHPRA should disclose information to colleagues about action taken
MIGA has also been dealing with the scope for AHPRA or the Medical Board to request practice information from doctors and to disclose action taken against a doctor to professional colleagues.
MIGA has been concerned about the potential for unnecessary disclosures, including to colleagues who merely work in the same building but have little, if anything, to do with the doctor. Importantly, this raises questions around what obligations this may create for those colleagues.
Pleasingly, recently finalised AHPRA guidelines incorporate a number of MIGA’s proposals:
- Clarifying when it is really necessary to request practice information and disclose actions taken against a doctor
- Circumstances when it is acceptable that information has not been provided and what this might mean for the practitioner
- When information needs to be provided about a practitioner’s voluntary healthcare roles.
Upcoming advocacy – National Law review
MIGA is now considering its response to the second stage of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law amendments which is, focused on whether the National Law remains up-to-date and suitable for modern practice.
There is a major focus on information sharing and disclosure, including issues such as:
- Further grounds for doctors, other health practitioners and employers to report certain events to AHPRA
- How much information about a practitioner should be on the public register
- Whether AHPRA should know about payments of compensation relating to settlements or judgments in civil claims
- Potential further powers to issue public warnings about practitioners.
MIGA’s advocacy will continue to seek fair, practical and sensible frameworks for sharing information with the public where required, whilst ensuring appropriate public protection but avoiding unnecessary disclosures and unwarranted invasions of practitioners’ privacy.