Confidential information2019-02-18T15:45:01+10:00

Confidential information

The Public Health Act 2005 (PHA) establishes the process for assessing health information held by Queensland Health for approved research projects.

The PHA applies to all researchers (internal and external to Queensland Health) who are undertaking research using identifiable or potentially re-identifiable health information for which the researchers are unable to obtain participant consent to use their personal or identifying information for a research purposes.

View details on obtaining approval to access confidential health information under the Public Health Act 2005.

Data custodians within Queensland Health

Signatures are required from the relevant data custodians to complete PHA applications prior to submission.

Requesting an exemption from HREC review for a Quality Assurance / Audit activity

The requirements for submitting an exemption request to the HREC with the intent to publish a Quality Assurance / Audit activity are provided in this guideline.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal

For patients who cannot consent for themselves, but are eligible to participate in clinical trials, it is a requirement to seek QCAT approval for the study before it commences.

Frequently asked questions

As a general rule, the Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011 (Qld) and the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) prohibit the disclosure of personal information such as medical records without a lawful reason to do so. As a general rule, consent of the patient will be sufficient to overcome that prohibition. Where consent of a patient has not been obtained, there remain several grounds for retrospective data collection. Retrospective data collection from health service records for the purposes of research requires consent to access patient information, unless a waiver of consent has been granted by a HREC and approval has been obtained as per Chapter 6, Part 4 of the Public Health Act 2005 (Qld). View information and application forms about Public Health Act.

Health service employees may also access patient records for quality assurance purposes (i.e. “evaluating, managing, monitoring or planning health services”) without consent under section 150 of Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011 (Qld). It is best to consult with your relevant Research Governance Officer in relation to any proposed use of existing medical records.

Section 144 of the Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011 (Qld) provides that a child’s parent or guardian may only provide consent to disclosure of a child’s medical records where “the disclosure of the confidential information is by a health professional who reasonably believes the child is of insufficient age or mental or emotional maturity to understand the nature of consenting to the disclosure”.

Accordingly, where the disclosure is not being performed by a health professional or where competence is established, then the provision of a parent or guardian’s consent will not overcome the default prohibition against disclosure. If there is no other lawful reason under the Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011 (Qld) to disclose the confidential information (e.g. “the child consents to the disclosure” and “the disclosure of the confidential information is by a health professional who reasonably believes the child is of insufficient age or mental or emotional maturity to understand the nature of consenting to the disclosure”), generally, an application under Chapter 6, Part 4 of the Public Health Act 2005 (Qld) would have to be sought (PHA information and application form).