Key messages

  • Under legal acts and regulations, doctors and laboratories must notify the department of diagnoses of certain conditions.
  • Patients must be made aware that you need to supply this information and why.
  • Patients cannot opt-out of supplying this information.
  • Privacy legislation protects patient confidentiality.

Information for notifying doctors

Doctors and laboratories are required by law (under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008) to notify the department of diagnoses of specified conditions.

The Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009 stipulate the information that must be provided. This includes:

  • demographic data
  • clinical history
  • the disease or condition diagnosed
  • risk factors
  • suspected modes of transmission
  • clinical comments.

Under the Health Records Act 2001, you need to tell your patients:

  • that this information is provided to the department
  • the reasons why it is provided
  • that there is a legal imperative to do so.

The department has developed an information sheet called Notifiable conditions in Victoria – privacy information for patients that you can give your patients to assist with this process.

Patient refusal

Patients cannot refuse to allow you to give this information to the department.

It is a legislative requirement that is designed to identify causes and risk factors for infectious diseases and other notifiable conditions, and to protect public health and safety.

Supplementary information collected through enhanced surveillance

Supplementary information is considered as statistical information essential for the planning, implementation and evaluation of public health services. The data collected are predominantly risk factors and clinical histories.

The information collected, including sensitive information (for example, ethnicity or sexual preferences), is regarded as core data relevant to public health practice.

The Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 permits the disclosure of relevant clinical and risk factor information, and information about the suspected modes of transmission.

The Health Records Act 2001

The Health Records Act 2001 aims to protect the privacy of an individual’s health information and how this information is managed. The act applies to the Victorian Government sector, Victorian Government–funded services, private health services within Victoria and any other organisations within Victoria that hold health information.

The Federal Privacy Act 1988

The Federal Privacy Act 1988 applies to the private sector, and services directly funded by the Australian Government.

Privacy legislation and the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008

Privacy legislation and the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 are complementary legislation. They do not replace legal obligations regulating the handling of personal and health information, such as the notification of conditions listed in the Regulations. They sit alongside existing protections – such as medical confidentiality – and legislated responsibilities to disclose information where mandatory reporting exists.

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