Government & Policy
Quebec aims to improve access to patient records
December 14, 2022
QUÉBEC CITY – The Quebec government presented the content of a bill to modernize access to patient health data. The plan is to be more transparent and better share information between health professionals. Bill 3, “An Act respecting health and social services information and amending various legislative provisions,” will let patients more easily consult their health file, know who had access to their information and decide if they want to share that information with other professionals. It is a slightly modified version of Bill 19, which was presented last year and died on the order paper before it could be adopted.
Health Minister Christian Dubé (pictured) and Minister of Cybersecurity and Digital Technology Éric Caire presented the bill during a news conference. The bill establishes the legislative framework to allow the deployment of new technology infrastructure under Caire’s supervision.
As reported in the Montreal Gazette, now that the concept is defined, the next step of the project is to develop the digital infrastructure. This phase has already begun in parallel with legislative changes being done by elected officials.
Dubé said he’s banking on an “agile” or progressive management of the project. The plan is to launch the new digital health files in two Quebec regions to work out bugs in their operation, and then expand their use to the rest of the province. This differs from previous attempts at such a system that failed after enormous investments.
The new approach would see medical files follow patients wherever they seek help, rather than being spread out among health professionals, each with their own private physical file on a patient, which is only shared on demand.
Caire said the current system treats patients like “clerks of the state” by asking them to track down information that health professionals need to treat them.
The modernization of the law has several goals, including promoting “active participation” of people in improving their health. It also hopes to facilitate the work of health professionals by improving the efficiency of sharing information.
Dubé said this new way of working will allow health professionals outside the public system, such as pharmacists and doctors in private clinics, to be included. It would also simplify the work of researchers by giving them better access to health data while ensuring their confidentiality.
The government says “robust protection standards” would be put in place to guard Quebecers’ personal data. Access to data would be restricted to the minimum necessary for each specialist, and each consultation of the database would be logged.
Modernization of the health information system is one of the pillars of Dubé’s health reform plan. He noted that at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government had difficulty acting because it lacked data from the network.
Eventually, the government hopes to use the immense data bank to more efficiently allocate funding for health network activities.