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.

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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.

Friday, April 11, 2008

B.C. introduces law governing access, privacy of electronic health records 

British Columbia's government has just recently introduced legislation specifically tailored for privacy and access to electronic health records.


April 10, 2008

Ministry of Health


VICTORIA – A new e-Health (Personal Health Information Access and Protection of Privacy) Act introduced today moves British Columbia a step closer to the goal of giving citizens access to their health records and medical information, while strengthening privacy protection, said Health Minister George Abbott.

“This new e-Health legislation moves us forward in meeting our throne speech commitment to give citizens better access to their health records and medical information so they can engage in a more informed role in their own health-care choices,” said Abbott. “eHealth will give patients faster, safer and better health care by providing authorized health-care professionals with secure access to patients’ information to make the best and most timely clinical decisions.”

British Columbia is the first province in Canada to create a specific legislative framework governing access and privacy for electronic health information databases. While other provinces have access and privacy legislation governing personal health information, British Columbia will be going above and beyond the provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act with new legislation containing specific provisions to address access to information and protection of privacy of electronic health information.

“As e-Health information becomes a more widely accessible and used tool in our health-care system, we want to ensure British Columbia has a framework that allows for the most effective medical and health-research related use of electronic health database information,” said Abbott. “But we also have to ensure that the framework surrounding use of electronic health information is to the highest standards of privacy protection.”

Individuals will be able to block access to their own information in Health Information Banks from all health professionals, with the only overriding clause being in the case that the person is incapacitated in an emergency or with the person’s consent. Maximum fines for violations of the act have been increased from $2,000 under the Pharmacists, Pharmacy Operations and Drug Scheduling Act to $200,000 under the new act.

The act specifically prohibits disclosing information from electronic databases for market research, while creating a Data Stewardship Committee that will evaluate requests for the disclosure of data for health research or planning purposes.

The e-Health (Personal Health Information Access and Protection of Privacy) Act will also introduce legislative changes so medical researchers can approach individuals regarding health research studies, while respecting personal privacy and patient confidentiality. Individual requests by researchers to contact persons for health research from database information will require the specific approval of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

“Patients and former patients can provide invaluable information in chronic disease research,” said Barbara Kaminsky, CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society. “Previously, researchers we fund could not even contact individuals who were willing to assist us in this vital work. Now we have a viable way to expand our research while respecting individual privacy.”

The Province recognizes that medical research and the privacy of British Columbians are equally important. The legislation will create an effective balance between individual rights and public responsibilities. It will also enable government to make objective decisions on the appropriate disclosure of health information for secondary purposes.

Amendments are also being made to the Pharmacists, Pharmacy Operations and Drug Scheduling Act to provide similar access, privacy and penalty provisions regarding PharmaNet. PharmaNet is internationally recognized as a world-class secure electronic network that protects patient safety. It protects patients from potentially dangerous medication errors, duplications and dangerous combinations of different medications. It records all prescriptions dispensed at B.C. community pharmacies in a central database and checks for interactions.

From the Canadian Press:

The Canadian Press: B.C. introduces law governing access, privacy of electronic health records

B.C. introduces law governing access, privacy of electronic health records

1 day ago

VICTORIA — British Columbians will soon be able to use their computers to view their health records, Health Minister George Abbott said Thursday after introducing legislation governing access and privacy for electronic health information databases.

British Columbia became the first province in Canada to create a legislative framework with specific provisions to address access and protection of electronic health information.

The e-Health Personal Health and Information Access and Protection of Privacy Act could eventually create paperless medical offices, allowing physicians to store information about patients on their computers as opposed to the banks of individual file folders in most offices, Abbott said.

"I'm pretty confident we got it right here," he said. "I'm very pleased with the balance with the legitimate access to personal information that a physician may require and the protection of the sanctity of those records that is so important to the patient."

The e-Health law gives medical researchers access to the electronic health database but ensures privacy, Abbott said.

Individuals can block access to the their own information in health data banks, except in cases where the person is incapacitated in an emergency or with the individual's consent.

Abbott said the new law prohibits disclosing information from electronic health databases for market research. The government will create a committee that evaluates requests for data for health research or planning purposes.

Maximum fines for violating the act have been will be $200,000.

The Opposition New Democrats said they want patient privacy ensured. They also said the act suffers from credibility issues.

Opposition health critic Adrian Dix wondered whether the bidding process for a $108 million contract for the software to store electronic medical records was tainted by alleged conflict of interest by a former top bureaucrat.

"The electronic medical records process is mired, unfortunately, in problems with the bidding process and problems with conflict of interest," he said. "We're talking about access to personal medical records and the credibility of that process is put in jeopardy."

The Health Ministry received a letter of concern about the bid process from an unnamed company whose bid for the electronic medical records contract was rejected.

And Dr. Tom Elliott, of Vancouver, went public with his concerns, saying his electronic records software met more than 95 per cent of the bid guidelines but didn't make the shortlist.

Other concerns involved the relationship between Ron Danderfer, a former assistant deputy minister of health, and Dr. Jonathan Burns, a Fraser Valley emergency room doctor and health contractor who developed and promoted a widely used health records device.

Danderfer and Burns were members of a steering committee overseeing the $108 million contract, aimed at getting the province's doctors on common software for medical records.

Only six companies were chosen to be involved and last year Burns listed one of the winning companies as a partner on his website.

The company, Wolf Medical, denied there had ever been a financial link between the two.

Abbott has said a government review found Danderfer was not involved in the selection or evaluation process for the health records project.

An internal government letter addressed to the Health Ministry from the Labour Ministry said last year the bid process was not influenced by Danderfer and Burns.

"While news media reports appear to link the Burns/Danderfer matter with the electronic medical record procurement, we can confirm that neither of these individuals were involved in evaluating proponent proposals or proponent software demonstrations and testing at any stage of the evaluation process," said the Nov. 7 letter from Richard Poutney, assistant deputy labour minister.

"We have not received any information that would link this matter to the electronic medical record procurement," it said.

In December, RCMP confirmed an investigation involving Danderfer while he was employed at the Health Ministry. The Mounties also asked the government to withhold results of an internal audit until their probe is complete.

Danderfer was placed on mandatory leave last July and retired last October after 35 years of service with the B.C. government.

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