Health Canada Protecting Personal Privacy: A First Principle for Canadian Health Infostructure

By Andrew J. Siman, Director General Office of Health and the Information Highway, Health Canada

For Health Canada, protecting personal privacy should lie at the heart of efforts to build a national health infostructure composed of health information systems across Canada.

This position derives, not just from a pragmatic realization that responding to privacy concerns is critical to the success of a health information system, but also from the belief that respect for privacy is a fundamental value in Canadian society and central to the provision of health care.

As the Advisory Council on Health Infostructure stated in its February 1999 report to federal Health Minister Allan Rock, “Privacy will be a key value in the Canada Health Infoway (or infostructure). A fundamental condition for successful health care is the trust patients have that their personal health information will be protected.” The Council saw privacy protection as one of its four strategic goals. A number of privacy commissioners supported the Council’s approach. For example, the British Columbia Information and Privacy Commissioner wrote that, “Federal recommendations to better protect health and medical information are a positive step in the fight to protect privacy-sensitive medical information.” Read More

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