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Quebec to create a patient health portal

Gaetan BarretteQUEBEC CITY – Health Minister Gaetan Barrette (pictured) announced the province of Quebec will launch a patient health portal enabling Quebecers to view their lab test results, diagnostic images and reports, along with other information.

The Carnet santé Québec, or health booklets, will be up and running next spring, the Minister said.

The government will roll out the program as early as the first week of January in Laval for patients who are already registered with family physicians at clinics. The rest of the province will follow a few months later.

The Montreal Gazette reported that it will cost the government $11 million to set up the system and $2 million a year afterward to maintain it.

Barrette said the digital health booklets would be like online bank accounts that provide consumers with a host of financial information. But instead of a bank balance, patients will be able to look up their latest lab results, X-rays and other medical images.

Patients will also be able to review their prescribed medications and book an appointment with their family doctor.

“The Carnet santé Québec,” Barrette said of the health booklet, “is a user-friendly, easy-to-use and secure tool that will allow Quebecers to better manage their health and contribute more to the success of the treatments offered to them.

“I am convinced that the public and health professionals will see the positive effects of this new service,” he added.

But the group representing the province’s 1,700 medical archivists expressed concern that Quebecers might end up feeling frustrated and confused after consulting their medical records online because some of the information will be incomplete.

Alexandre Allard, president of the archivists’ association, noted that not all medical files have been digitized, “which means that a patient’s file will be partial at best.”

“We believe that the very tight timeline for this project is likely to give rise to significant difficulties,” said Allard, who heads the Association des gestionnaires de l’information de la santé du Québec.

He estimated that up to 80 percent of one’s medical information, including all data gathered during a hospitalization or an emergency-room visit, will not be available. What’s more, time-squeezed doctors and archivists will be under more pressure to update medical information online, and this could lead to errors.

Allard criticized Barrette for not agreeing to set up an implementation committee that would have included medical archivists.

Allard acknowledged that online medical information will be useful for some patients with chronic illnesses like hemophilia. Such patients are already knowledgeable about their blood results, and access to online data will help them keep better track of their condition.

“But for someone who is not that knowledgeable about medical aspects, if they read that their white-blood cell count is high, they might go on Wikipedia to get additional information and they could get confused,” he added.

The last thing the government wants is for a patient to discover that they have lung cancer while they’re looking at their smartphone in the métro, Barrette said. For that reason, there will be a 30-day delay in posting diagnostic data to make sure that doctors can reach patients first in certain cases.

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