Privacy and Canada’s Health Information Highway – A presentation by BC FIPA to the Information and Privacy Conference in Victoria — 14 Feb 2002

BC FIPA believes the issue of HEALTH INFORMATION PRIVACY as the most significant privacy issue of our time. This presentation outlines the importance of the right to privacy and the threats that “Health Info-structure” represents.

Provincial governments appear to believe that the diminution of privacy rights is essential to the creation of the “Canadian Health Info-way”.

BC FIPA disagrees. We think Canadians can have privacy rights AND the highest quality health care system.

Download the full presentation (pdf).

BC FIPA publishes Declaration of Medical Privacy Rights

BC FIPA has published a Declaration of Medial Privacy Rights in light of the push towards electronic health records and electronic information management systems.

Declaration of Medical Privacy Rights

The Right to Privacy is a human right and is fundamental to my dignity as a human
being.

My right to privacy extends to all my personal health information, regardless of the
format in which it is recorded.

Any personal health record maintained on me by any health care provider is created through a special relationship, with the expectation that my information will remain confidential. The confidential nature of this relationship exists to safeguard and promote my physical and mental health. Any violation of this confidential relationship may adversely affect my health and is a violation of my right to privacy.

The right to privacy affirms my right to control access to and use of my personal health information. Any access or use without my consent is a violation of my right to privacy.

Fundamental to my right to privacy of health information is the right to:

a) be told why specific information is requested and if it will be part of a physical record,

b) know who will have access to any of my health information and for what purpose,

c) refuse access to all or portions of my information,

d) expect an audit trail that will identify who has accessed my health information,

e) expect my health information will be maintained in a secure environment that will prevent any unauthorized access,

f) request and receive an accurate and complete copy of my health records in a timely
fashion,

g) have corrected any factual error in the records. If there is a disagreement about the
accuracy of the records, it is my right to have the disputed information clearly identified and to append to the records what I believe to be the correct information,

h) expect the information will be retained for a length of time appropriate only to the primary reason for which it was obtained. Any retention beyond this length of time must be done with my consent, and

i) seek an effective remedy should any of these rights be violated.

Download the Declaration.

BC FIPA publishes “Personal Health Information and the Right to Privacy in Canada: An overview of statutory, common law, voluntary and constitutional privacy protection”

BC FIPA has released “Personal Health Information and the Right to Privacy in Canada: An overview of statutory, common law, voluntary and constitutional privacy protection”, a law reform report prepared by Susan Prosser of the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre (BCPIAC).

The report outlines the gaps in protection in existing provincial privacy laws, the disparity in sources of privacy law and privacy policy, and the divergent interests of those involved in the administration of Canada’s healthcare system.

Confidentiality and informed consent form the backbone of the medical system. As Bruce Phillips, the federal Privacy Commissioner, argued in his 1996-97 Annual Report, “an individual’s right to control the disclosure of personal medical information should be paramount. That right should be overruled only in the face of an overwhelming and compelling public interest (or to provide the patient emergency care).”

If the federal and provincial governments fail to pass legislation which protects individuals’ rights to privacy, it will be up to the courts to decide under what circumstances individuals have a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy and whether legislation that permits either use or disclosure to third parties without consent passes constitutional muster.

Download the report (pdf).

BC FIPA and Partners Publish Discussion Paper on Alberta Health Information Act

BC FIPA along with the Canadian Mental Health Association (Alberta Division), the Alberta Medical Association, and United Nurses of Alberta has published a discussion paper on Alberta’s recently adopted Health Information Act (HIA).

The paper, titled “Alberta’s Health Information Act and the Charter”, reviews the underpinnings of the right to privacy in Canada, the protection of this right afforded under the Charter, and discusses issues and concerns with the HIA.

The Act allows individually identifying health information to be disclosed without the individual’s consent in a number of circumstances … If particularly sensitive information is not effectively protected, this may violate individuals’ privacy and also the equality rights of individuals with certain personal characteristics.

The definition of non-identifying information establishes a low threshold which … increases the likelihood of privacy violations.

This preliminary analysis indicates that there are constitutional issues raised by the text of the Health Information Act. It will also be essential to bear in mind the constitutional protection of the right to privacy as the Act is implemented. The actions of government in implementing the Act … must therefore be taken in a manner which is consistent with the Charter, including its requirement to respect individuals’ privacy.

Download the discussion paper (pdf).