Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C. Lags in Protecting Sensitive Health Data: Privacy Commissioner

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C. Lags in Protecting Sensitive Health Data: Privacy Commissioner

Article excerpt

B.C. lacks reporting laws for health-data breaches


VANCOUVER - If British Columbians can't trust authorities to secure their sensitive medical records, there could be serious consequences to their health and a slump in scientific research, says the province's privacy commissioner.

Elizabeth Denham is calling for immediate action by provincial health authorities to boost measures that safeguard citizen's health information in the absence of disclosure laws.

Authorities aren't legally obligated to report privacy breaches, but Denham wants that to change and made more than a dozen recommendations to patch the problem in a report released Wednesday. Data of concern could include HIV tests, mammograms or routine blood results, she said.

All provinces and territories, except for B.C., Saskatchewan and Quebec, have legislated or incoming requirements that order health authorities to reveal the inappropriate release of private information.

"It's not in place here yet. It's a problem," Denham said.

People wary that their private information might be made public or accessed by someone other than their doctor could shy from disclosing health conditions, even though details are necessary to inform their diagnosis and treatment, Denham said.

Others might stop participating in important health research or get anxious about the use of electronic record systems, she added.

"Citizens expect when they go to the hospital or when they go to their care provider, their data is going to be robustly protected."

Her report examined B.C.'s eight provincial health authorities, collecting information covering the past three years.

It revealed 3,000 suspected privacy breaches per year across those authorities. The privacy office was advised of less than one per cent of those, she said.

The review found the most common breach involved miscommunication, such as faxes sent to the wrong number or emails sent to the wrong accounts. …

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