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Does Privacy Hinder Patient Care?

September 7, 2022 - Diane Aldridge, Deputy Commissioner

Recently, I read an article in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix titled, Borderline: Why health record privacy hinders patient care in Lloydminster (part 2), and it caused me to pause. Now, my office has not yet received any specific complaints about cross border sharing of personal health information, so we have yet to fully explore what the challenges may or may not be as described in this article. However, a couple of things I thought I would share could maybe help dispel some myths about privacy and the provision of health care. I also, can only speak from the Saskatchewan perspective.

Firstly, in Saskatchewan, personal health information in the custody or control of trustees is governed by The Health Information Protection Act (HIPA). In terms of personal health information, there are provisions, such as section 27(2)(b) of HIPA that authorize the disclosure of personal health information for the purposes of arranging, assessing the need for, providing, continuing or supporting the provision of, a service requested or required by the subject individual. This includes the provision of diagnosis, treatment and care. What this section does not do is to limit who that personal health information may be shared with. So, a physician in Saskatchewan could disclose a patient’s personal health information to another practicing in Alberta in the right circumstances.

Secondly, HIPA authorizes the sharing of personal health information with the consent of the data subject, or in the case of health care, the patient.

Thirdly, patients move in and out of Saskatchewan all the time. And, in some cases, it would be expected that their patient records would be transferred from one jurisdiction to another.

Finally, as indicated in the article, patients in Saskatchewan can register with eHealth to access their personal health information through MySaskHealthRecords or for Albertans 14 years of age and older, MyHealth Records by completing the steps outlined at the following: https://myhealth.alberta.ca/myhealthrecords.

If the concern is what information is or is not accessible by those on one side of the border versus the other in provincial systems, electronic medical records, or electronic health records like the eHR viewer here in Saskatchewan, discussion should be held with those that make decisions regarding access to see exactly what barriers do or do not exist to facilitating that access. On the Alberta side, those conversations should be had with Alberta Health and other key stakeholders. If there is ever interest in exploring these issues in more depth here in Saskatchewan, my office can be engaged through the consultation process.

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