Bill C-72: Simplifying Health Information Access for Canadians

  • TDS News
  • Canada
  • June 6, 2024

Image Credit, Irwan

In a significant move aimed at revolutionizing the Canadian healthcare system, Mark Holland, Minister of Health, today introduced Bill C-72, known as the Connected Care for Canadians Act. This landmark legislation is designed to empower Canadians by providing secure and timely access to their own health data, thus enhancing decision-making and improving the quality of care received nationwide.

Historically, provincial governments have been uncooperative in facilitating easy access to personal health information. This has resulted in substantial roadblocks for patients, including lengthy wait times, excessive paperwork, and exorbitant fees. The cumbersome process has often left Canadians waiting months, if not years, for access to their own medical records. Bill C-72 seeks to address these issues head-on, representing a significant victory for patients across the country.

The introduction of this bill highlights the urgent need for a modern, connected care system where health information can be accessed digitally and securely by patients and shared seamlessly between healthcare providers. Currently, less than 40% of Canadians report having electronic access to some of their health information, and only 35% of physicians share patient information outside their practice. This lack of connectivity has led to inefficiencies, such as unnecessary tests, prolonged wait times, and medication errors.

“Data saves lives, and it’s time for us to move past the archaic and siloed approach to managing and sharing patient information,” Minister Holland stated. “This legislation is about enabling Canadians to access their own health data and to use that information to make better decisions about their healthcare, no matter where in Canada they are receiving it.”

The new legislation will also ease the burden on patients, families, and caregivers, who often have to recall and repeat their medical histories. For healthcare providers, having access to comprehensive patient information can lead to decreased re-admission rates, more accurate diagnoses, improved quality of care, and ultimately, fewer deaths.

A critical aspect of the Connected Care for Canadians Act is its emphasis on security and privacy. The legislation mandates that all IT companies providing digital health services in Canada adhere to common standards, ensuring that health information is protected and securely exchanged across various systems. This aligns with the Pan-Canadian Interoperability Roadmap, which promotes standardized data and secure information sharing.

The federal government is committed to collaborating with provincial and territorial partners to ensure the smooth implementation of this legislation. The Act will apply in provinces and territories without similar legislation, fostering a unified approach to health information management and enhancing patient outcomes while respecting existing privacy laws.

As part of the ongoing efforts to modernize the healthcare system, the federal, provincial, and territorial governments are also working towards collecting and sharing high-quality, comparable, de-personalized information to measure healthcare improvements. This includes adopting common interoperability standards and advancing principles for ethical health data management through the Pan-Canadian Health Data Charter.

The Connected Care for Canadians Act is a monumental step forward in creating a connected, patient-centered healthcare system. By prioritizing secure access to health information, the Canadian government is paving the way for improved healthcare delivery and better health outcomes for all Canadians.