Australia: Understanding the Importance of Privacy Policies for Tenant Doctors

In recent years, Australia’s medical industry has witnessed substantial changes due to shifts in legal precedents, notably the Thomas v Naaz case. This pivotal case drew attention to the financial liabilities that medical practices could face when defining doctors as independent contractors. Such a classification may potentially lead to sizable retrospective payroll tax bills since payments to independent contractors could be identified as under a ‘relevant contract’ concerning payroll tax regulations. Consequently, there’s a growing tendency to recategorise the relationship between doctors and medical practices, often in a manner similar to a landlord and tenant agreement. Given this evolving situation, it’s now more essential than ever for tenant doctors to consider the necessity for their own legal documents, like a Privacy Policy.

Patient Confidentiality: A Paramount Concern

In our data-driven world, ensuring the privacy of patient information has become increasingly critical, especially in the medical and health sectors. While the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) mandate privacy policies for medical practices, the growing recognition of tenant doctors as separate entities demands their own privacy policies. In this article, we delve into the reasons why tenant doctors should consider adopting individual privacy policies.

Understanding the Role of an APP Entity

Tenant doctors, being independent from the medical practices, are not employees but self-reliant entities. This distinction obliges them to manage their own privacy responsibilities, in line with the APPs. The Australian Privacy Act identifies tenant doctors as an “APP Entity“, a unique classification for businesses handling sensitive patient data. Therefore, tenant doctors need to establish a Privacy Policy. Such a policy not only fulfills their legal duties but also clarifies their commitment to data privacy, and transparently informs patients about how their data is collected, used, and shared.

Uniformity & Control: Key Benefits of Personal Privacy Policies

Tenant doctors frequently collaborate with multiple medical practices, accessing different systems and databases that store patient data. Possessing their own privacy policy enables them to maintain uniform privacy practices across various locations, ensuring they have direct control over the privacy standards.

Effective Team Management

Tenant doctors may employ additional staff or subcontract services like bookkeeping or virtual assistance. These individuals could potentially access confidential patient information. By extending the scope of their privacy policy to include these team members, tenant doctors ensure that all involved in the healthcare service delivery process are aware of their privacy obligations.

The Norm of Business Operation

Collecting, using, and disclosing health information is inherent to the tenant doctor’s professional obligations. A personal privacy policy explicitly details their approach towards safeguarding patient privacy, ensuring that patient data is used strictly for the intended purposes.

Being Prepared & Taking Control

Should a privacy breach occur, a personal privacy policy acts as evidence of the tenant doctor’s proactive efforts to secure patient privacy, potentially mitigating associated liabilities. The policy empowers the doctor to manage the response process, liaising directly with the Office of the Information Commissioner concerning the mandatory notification.

Demonstrating Dedication to Privacy

A personal privacy policy signifies to patients that the tenant doctor values their privacy and is dedicated to safeguarding their data, thereby fostering trust and confidence in their practice.

Managing Your Website: An Important Consideration

More and more, medical practices are encouraging tenant doctors to develop independent websites. While this independence can protect the medical practice, it may put the tenant doctor at risk if the website lacks sufficient safeguards. For their protection, tenant doctors should implement website terms and conditions in addition to a Privacy Policy. Such measures provide a legal framework defining website usage and access.

Consult the Experts

In conclusion, there are multiple reasons why tenant doctors in Australia should establish their own privacy policies, including:

  • Ensuring compliance with the APPs;
  • Maintaining uniform privacy practices across different locations;
  • Extending privacy obligations to staff and contractors;
  • Safeguarding sensitive health data;
  • Preparing for potential privacy breaches; and
  • Building trust with patients.

As independent business professionals, tenant doctors must understand their privacy obligations and take the necessary steps to meet these obligations, ensuring patient privacy remains protected. If you need assistance in this matter, consult a trusted legal advisor to ensure your privacy policy complies with all relevant regulations.

This publication is general in nature and is not comprehensive or constitutes legal or medical advice. You should seek legal, medical or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practice proper clinical decision making with regard to individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgment or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Tego Insurance Pty Ltd is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information.

All content on this page has been written in a generic way, and has not been presented with any knowledge of your personal objectives or financial needs.