Printer-friendly version   

 

 


  NEWS RELEASE 

For Immediate Release

2008HEALTH0038-000505

April 10, 2008

Ministry of Health

 

E-HEALTH STATUTE INCREASES PATIENT ACCESS AND PRIVACY

 


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.

 

-30-

 


  

Media

contact:

Michelle Stewart

Communications Director

Ministry of Health

250 812-5571 (cell)

250 952-1887 (media line)

 

For more information on government services or to subscribe to the Province’s news feeds using RSS, visit the Province’s website at www.gov.bc.ca.