The Impact of Privacy Legislation on Patient Care: A Canadian Perspective

The Impact of Privacy Legislation on Patient Care: A Canadian Perspective

Jeff Barnett (University of Victoria BC, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-000-5.ch003
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This chapter looks at how privacy legislation in Canada may interfere with patient care and the use of electronic health records. A review of the literature shows that legislation across Canada is not uniform and varies to the degree in which it addresses issues of privacy and confidentiality. What is not clear is what impact legislation has on the movement towards electronic health records. A case study was undertaken to look at a specific project involving the design of an electronic health record as a means of sharing information between physicians and prostate cancer patients. Through interviews with those associated with the project, it was clear that legislation itself was not a barrier. The problem was that the legislation was open to interpretation. The author hopes that an understanding of the issues raised by this paper will lead to further discussion and research on this topic.
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Patient privacy is a topic of great interest both in Canada and internationally. Many health conferences and academic journals often have several papers devoted to this topic. This issue has gained more attention in the last five years as there is a continuing trend in healthcare towards more electronic capture and sharing of information between providers and patients. It has been recognized that healthcare has typically been behind other industries like the airlines and banking when it comes to embracing its users in the sharing of electronic information. Patients and their healthcare providers have expressed an interest in sharing of information to facilitate optimal patient care. Unfortunately as more patient information is made available electronically there is an increased potential for loss of privacy and confidentiality.

In Canada most provinces have legislation to ensure that there are safeguards in place to protect confidentiality and security of sensitive personal data. However it may be that this legislation is too restrictive and interferes with patient care activities. Many initiatives such as those led by federal and provincial governments are looking at novel ways of providing access to and sharing of electronic patient information. Often these initiatives involve the use of the Internet or some form of information and communication technology (ICT). These initiatives may run into issues with current legislation to the extent that they never get off the ground or, at best, are significantly delayed in implementation. In general, the topics presented usually deal with how to be compliant with legislation or how to go about addressing issues related to privacy. Little has been discussed that addresses how legislation may have an impact on patient care. Indeed there is scarce information in the literature that looks at how the legislation in any particular jurisdiction may have an impact on novel approaches to the delivery of care.

The aim of this paper is to look at a new and innovative project for the sharing of information for prostate cancer patients in the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC). A case study was undertaken in order to examine whether current legislation has had an impact on this project, known as the Provider Project.

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