Canadians want secure e-health records, says survey

The majority of Canadians support the development and use of electronic health records (EHRs), but expect that their privacy will be protected in the collection, storage and use of their personal health information.

This was one of the findings of a recent a recent survey sponsored by Canada Health Infoway, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and Health Canada.

The Electronic Health Information and Privacy Survey was conducted by EKOS Research Associates and is based on interviews with approximately 2,500 Canadians last summer.

Minister of Health, Tony Clement said in a statement that the government is committed to pursuing new technologies that improve health-care delivery, while ensuring the privacy of personal information.

“Once fully implemented, private and secure electronic health records will increase efficiencies, reduce wait-times and result in significant savings in our health care system,” said Clement.

The poll results concluded that almost two-thirds of Canadians believe there are a few types of personal information that are more important for privacy laws to protect than personal health information, and that almost nine in 10 Canadians support the development of EHRs.

Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada said it’s clear that Canadians want the protection of their privacy to be a key factor as the government considers how these highly sensitive records are managed and the potential secondary uses for these data.

Currently, Canada Health Infoway has EHR implementation initiatives underway across Canada, according to its president and CEO, Richard Alvarez.

“This research confirms Canadians support the acceleration of private and secure electronic health records,” said Alvarez.

The survey also revealed that 89 per cent of respondents believe the use of EHR systems, compared to the previous paper-based set-up, is better in terms of the overall effectiveness of the health-care delivery.

About 87 per cent of those polled believe EHRs will make diagnosis quicker and more accurate, while 82 per cent believe they will reduce prescription error.

Eighty-four per cent of respondents would like to be able to access their own medical records online, while 77 per cent would like audit trails that document access to their health information.

In terms of accountability, 74 per cent of respondents want strong penalties for unauthorized access to their personal health information, with 70 per cent saying they want to be informed and would like procedures in place to respond to such breaches.

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