CORNER BROOK How do you improve the stewardship of information rather than how do you stop access to information? That’s the question that Sholom Glouberman said is important to consider when looking at privacy and access to personal health information.
Glouberman is the president of the Patients’ Association of Canada. He said a lot of the privacy and freedom-of-information legislation that exists in Canada has actually stopped the flow of information.
He said health organization and professionals often concentrate on the privacy so much that the need for freedom of information is forgotten.
“And what privacy becomes is ... a way of stopping the flow of information both to patients and among practitioners.”
But Glouberman said access to the information needs to be there and that includes patient access to their own files. As an example he used the case of a Newfoundland man who went to Toronto to work in construction. He worked a few weeks and after getting paid went out drinking with friends. The man got drunk and broke his leg. Being in Ontario he now had access to some fancy coverage and was sent to Texas for rehabilitation that could not be provided in Ontario.
When he got to Texas the man was told he couldn’t get rehab unless he went to an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting everyday. The man questioned this and was told it was because it said in his records that he was an alcoholic. The man said he wasn’t and could not have the information changed and had to go to AA.
“That’s why patients have to have access to their records. And that’s why they have to be able to correct them when they have those kinds of mistakes.”
Glouberman said there has to be a flow of information and the legislation should reflect that.
“You want hospital records to be easily accessible by primary care doctors. You want them easily accessible by physiotherapists where they’re needed. You want them easily accessible by the patient in order to make sure that there aren’t that kind of egregious errors that happened to that Newfoundland fellow.”
Glouberman said there are a lot of ways to make information flow appropriately and to the proper people.
Some suggestions include:
— The creation of online portals so that primary care doctors automatically get the results of all hospital visits and records, something that doesn’t always happen now.
— A patient portal where people can access test results directly, something that can now involve multiple calls and an actual visit to the doctor.
— The ability to make appointments online.
— The ability to communicate with your doctor via email.
— The ability to renew prescriptions online, again something that is not available everywhere.
The idea of having an appropriate flow of information is important, but has gotten lost in information and privacy acts across country, Glouberman said.
“I don’t think it’s just true in Newfoundland, is that what’s evolved is a kind of privacy police that spends its time looking for breaches of privacy rather than trying to figure out ways to improve the flow of information.”