Requirements for Information Communication (2007 Edition)

Use of identifiers and anonymity

Page last updated: 14 January 2008


A laboratory must only assign external identifiers to individuals if they are reasonably necessary for the laboratory to function effectively.


While most privacy legislation indicates that individual identifiers should only be assigned where deemed reasonably necessary, good laboratory practice would indicate that most, if not all, laboratories need to assign identifiers to individual patients in order to carry out their functions safely and effectively in the best interest of the patient.
A laboratory must not adopt an identifier of an individual that has been assigned by an agency of the Australian Government (e.g. a Medicare number or Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs number) as its own identifier of that individual, except where such use has been authorised.


The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has tasked the National eHealth Transition Authority with the development and implementation of a national infrastructure that enables unique health care identification of both consumers (Individual health Identifier — IHI) and providers (Healthcare Provider Identifier — HPI) within the health sector.
Where it is lawful and practicable, individuals must have the option of not identifying themselves when entering into transactions with the laboratory.


Without identifying information, it should be recognised that samples could not be tested in parallel, or reported in a cumulative form, which would impact on optimum patient care.

In some situations it may be unlawful to provide a service anonymously. For example, where an individual is diagnosed with a notifiable disease, some state and territory laws require providers to collect identifying information.

Without identifying information, patients will not be eligible for Medicare rebates in circumstances where they may otherwise be eligible.


A laboratory may use an identifier assigned by another organisation (including state and territory public sector organisations) as its own identifier of an individual if:
(a) the individual has consented to the adoption of the identifier; or
(b) the adoption of the identifier is necessary for the laboratory to fulfil its obligations to, or requirement of, the other organisation.