Protecting your health information

Health professionals will collect a lot of information about you, your health and the treatment you receive. When you are receiving health care, you have a right to privacy and confidentiality. This means, in general, that health professionals can’t collect your health information or disclose it to others without your consent.

It’s important to note that your rights may vary depending on which state or territory you live in. For specific information, contact the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, talk to your treatment team, or seek independent legal advice.

Learn more about:

Listen to our podcast on Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis

Medical records

When you receive health care, the person treating you creates notes. This is called a medical record. A medical record could be handwritten or electronic and it may include:

  • personal details (e.g. your name, race, genetic information)
  • information or opinions about your health or illness
  • scans, tests and the interpretation of results
  • recommendations about treatments and medicines
  • correspondence to health professionals
  • photographs, audio files or video footage.

Every treatment centre you attend will keep a medical record about you, and they will add to that record each time you visit or have tests. A medical record contains personal information, so it’s important that you know who can see it, change it and copy it. If you are concerned about the security of your health information, talk to your health provider or ask to see a copy of their privacy policy.

My Health Record

The Australian Government’s My Health Record is an online summary of your health information (e.g. imaging scans, test results, a list of medicines, your medical conditions and treatments). It allows you and your health care providers to view summaries of your health information at a glance. Insurers and employers are not able to access My Health Record. Unless you opted out before 31 January 2019, a My Health Record will automatically be created for you. You have the right to permanently delete your My Health Record at any time. For more information about managing your record, including your privacy and security, visit My Health Record.

Who owns my medical records?

The treatment centre or health professional who creates a medical record owns and maintains the record. However, Australian law considers ownership and access as separate – so although you don’t own the medical record, you generally have a right to gain access to it.

Medical records must be stored and disposed of securely to prevent unauthorised access. Different states and territories may have different requirements about how long doctors and treatment centres must keep your records after your last consultation.

Who can access my medical records?

Medical records are private and confidential. Health professionals directly involved in your care can view your personal and medical information, but only if it’s necessary for their work.

Australian privacy standards establish a general rule that health care providers must give you access to the personal information they hold about you when you request it. This includes your medical records. In some limited situations, the organisation has a legal right to refuse you access.

Giving people access to their medical records:

  • allows them to better understand their condition and treatment
  • can help ensure the information is accurate
  • may make people feel more confident about the health care system.

If you would like to see your medical records, ask your health care provider (e.g. GP, specialist, hospital or treatment centre) for access. You may have to put the request in writing and provide proof of identity, such as a driver’s licence or birth certificate.

There is no set time limit for a health care provider to meet a request for medical records. However, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner recommends that a request should be processed within 30 days.

The health care provider may charge a reasonable fee to copy your record based on the size of the record (public hospitals usually charge around $30 for a short document), or to recover other costs involved in providing access, but there shouldn’t be a fee to request access.

You can also ask for a copy of your medical record to be sent to another health care provider, for example, if you want to change doctors or treatment centres.

You can authorise someone else to see your medical records, such as a relative, interpreter or another health professional. If you make a complaint about your health care, your records may be provided to the health ombudsman or complaints commission in your state or territory.

Why might access be denied?

In some rare situations, you won’t be allowed to have a copy of your medical records, such as where another law requires your information to be kept private (e.g. if the information relates to legal proceedings); or there’s a serious risk that giving you access to the information could harm someone. If your health care provider refuses to let you see your medical record, they must let you know the reasons.

How can I change my medical records?

If you think your medical records are inaccurate, out-of-date, incomplete, irrelevant or misleading, you can ask for changes. You may be asked to make this request in writing.

If a treatment centre refuses to change your medical record because they think it is correct as it is or that your suggested changes are not appropriate, it must provide a written explanation for the decision. You can also ask them to include a short statement with your record, which explains that you think the information is incorrect.

If you disagree with the treatment centre’s decision, you can make a complaint to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (call 1300 363 992) or to the health ombudsman or complaints commission in your state or territory.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on cancer care and your rights

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit:


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit:

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit:

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in June 2019
View who reviewed this content
View our editorial policy

Support services

Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum

Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono services, financial and legal assistance, and no interest loans

Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment

Cancer information

What is cancer?
How cancer starts and spreads

Dealing with the diagnosis
Common reactions to a cancer diagnosis and how to find hope

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends