The Canadian Privacy Law Blog: Developments in privacy law and writings of a Canadian privacy lawyer, containing information related to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (aka PIPEDA) and other Canadian and international laws.

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The author of this blog, David T.S. Fraser, is a Canadian privacy lawyer who practices with the firm of McInnes Cooper. He is the author of the Physicians' Privacy Manual. He has a national and international practice advising corporations and individuals on matters related to Canadian privacy laws.

For full contact information and a brief bio, please see David's profile.

Please note that I am only able to provide legal advice to clients. I am not able to provide free legal advice. Any unsolicited information sent to David Fraser cannot be considered to be solicitor-client privileged.

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The views expressed herein are solely the author's and should not be attributed to his employer or clients. Any postings on legal issues are provided as a public service, and do not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice. The author makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained herein or linked to. Nothing herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel.

This web site is presented for informational purposes only. These materials do not constitute legal advice and do not create a solicitor-client relationship between you and David T.S. Fraser. If you are seeking specific advice related to Canadian privacy law or PIPEDA, contact the author, David T.S. Fraser.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Australian doctors sell medical records 

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that Australian doctors are legally selling de-identified patient records to a company that will provide the data to pharmaceutical companies.

Australian doctors sell medical records - Breaking News - National - Breaking News:

"Australian doctors are legally selling confidential medical records to a marketing firm with links to the pharmaceutical industry. GPs are handing over their patients' drug records - with no names attached - and receiving as little as $150 or gift vouchers as payment, a Melbourne newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The federal Privacy Commissioner has approved the deal between doctors and the Cam Group, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical promotions companies, because the information was 'de-identified' and did not breach the Privacy Act, the Herald Sun said.

But, according to the paper, the commissioner warned the government last year that removing a patient's name and address did not guarantee anonymity.

The promotion company collects the data through software used by 16,000 Australian GPs, collates the information and sells it to drug companies.

So far about 200 GPs across Australia have signed up, the paper said.

The Australian Consumers Association complained to Privacy Commissioner about the deal last year, alleging it broke privacy laws and was a threat to the doctor-patient relationship."

It takes much more than removing names and addresses to make medical records anonymous. I recall a study from not long ago in which the owners of "de-identified" medical records were identified with +90% accuracy by matching against public sources.

The more important thing is that patients probably don't care about how anonymous it can be rendered or the finer points of data matching. If they hear that their information is being sold to pharma companies, they will likely lose trust in their physicians.

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