Online Only: Online health records a cause for concern

By Morgan Haigler

The Alberta Medical Association is fighting the Alberta government’s plans to introduce Bill 52 under the Health Information Amendment Act, 2008, fearing patients will not receive the quality health care and privacy of information they deserve.

If passed, Bill 52 would include patient information that is usually stored in doctor’s offices in the provincial electronic health record, or EHR. This would give the Minister of Health and Wellness the authority to compel physicians and other custodians to share as much personal information about the patient in the EHR as they see fit. If the physicians and other custodians don’t comply, they could face a fine of $200,000 to $500,000.

Bill 52 would also make it harder for patients to find out who had looked at their private health information, when and for what reasons.

Alberta physicians and other health professionals are convinced that Bill 52 will prevent patients from revealing private and potentially life-saving information to their doctors.

“We’re very concerned that patients won’t be very forthright with their physicians and the only way a physician can make the best diagnosis, the right diagnosis is if you as a patient feel very comfortable in confiding in the doctor,” said Alberta Medical Association assistant executive director Ronald Kustra. “We know that there are certain things that many people tell the doctors that they’d never tell anybody else so that causes us some real concern.”

Kustra added that patients should bring their concerns about Bill 52 to their MLA.

“We think patients should care because we believe that individuals should have some control over their own information,” said Kustra. “Physicians are very concerned that this bill will impact the doctor-patient relationship.”

Bill 52 was first proposed in late November. Since then a number of health organizations have tried to oppose the Alberta Government’s decision to proceed with the proposed amendments including AIDS Calgary, HIV Edmonton, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Consumers Association of Canada and the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership.

“For us this is a very, very important issue,” said Kustra. “We believe it’s fundamental to the future health care system in Alberta because we need to have an electronic health care system that patients, Albertans trust.”

Leave a comment