Electronic Health Records: Controlling Personal Health Data in Computerized Medical Records (in French only)


Élisabeth Gibeau, Anthony Hémond


Union des consommateurs




Information and communications technologies are bringing profound change to medical practices and relationships between patients and health professionals across the globe. Whether it be telemedicine (telediagnosis, telemetry, telemonitoring, telesurgery, etc.) or eHealth (on-line management of medical records, information and services, etc.), practices cannot be changed without taking into account the purpose of the new tools, respect for medical ethics and human rights or the transformation of professional practices and trust in doctor-patient confidentiality.

Some of the objectives of health sector computerization include: improving patient care, reducing wait times, increasing the efficiency of the health care system, managing chronic illnesses better and reducing prescription errors resulting from e-prescribing. The key to obtaining these expected benefits lies in improving the flow of information within the health network.

A 2007 survey carried out on behalf of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Health Canada and Canada Health Infoway confirmed that Canadians are very concerned about the integrity of their personal information, especially that which is health-related. Although 88% of those surveyed approve of the development of electronic health records (EHRs), their opposition to the establishment of the system stems primarily from the security of their health information. As such, 45% of people surveyed worry that someone might access their information for malicious reasons; 42% are concerned that it is used for purposes not related to their health and 37% of respondents worry that established information privacy and security procedures are not followed by those with access to their health records.

What about our security? Have the Canadian public authorities currently working to computerize our personal health data made every effort to ensure its privacy and confidentiality now that it will for the first time be centralized in one extensive database?

This is what we are trying to determine through our research as we examine in greater detail the existing EHR projects in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. Firstly, we will give a presentation on the current projects in those provinces and point out their similarities and differences. We will then review the legislation aimed at protecting personal information at the federal and provincial levels in order to determine whether the current or proposed legal framework will be sufficient to provide the necessary safeguards within the new context of computerized and centralized health data.

The computerization of health records poses a real challenge in terms of both logistics and legislation. Compared with what may seem like a legal puzzle in Quebec, Ontario’s approach has merit in clarifying the rules for protecting personal information in the health sector. With everyone who processes personal health information working under one system, the task of managing such information effectively becomes much simpler. In the absence of a sole statute, a health code would also bring clarity to the current system, which is based on a wide range of legislation.

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French only

Contact information

Union des consommateurs
7000 Parc Ave, Suite 201
Montreal, QC  H3N 1X1
(514) 521-6820
(514) 521-0736

Source: Consumer Policy Research Database

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