Quebec tables bills to make sharing health information more efficient

Quebec wants to promote information sharing between patients, their caregivers, managers and researchers, both public and private.

Health Minister Christian Dubé tabled Bill 19, described as a "mammoth" bill, on Friday, which amends 27 laws in Quebec.

He said the bill is part of a strategy to transform the health-care system to make it more "efficient and humane."

If passed, Bill 19 would remove barriers to information sharing. A patient would not only be able to see his or her own information but also know who has seen it.

Dubé also wants managers to have access to 'timely' information so they can make the right choices, which he said was a weakness in the system during the pandemic.

"We saw that ... particularly at the beginning of the pandemic, the lack of real-time information was critical," Dubé said in a news conference. "There is information that we received two or three weeks late, and I think we can't go through that again. We really need to catch up on the information gathering."

The minister aims to simplify access to information for researchers in the public system, in order to promote developing innovative treatments.

For researchers in the private sector, Quebec wants to create an organization, a "trusted third party," responsible for receiving and processing their requests.

A patient could refuse to have his or her data accessible to external researchers.

PROTECTING PERSONAL DATA

Quebec said it is committing to keeping citizens informed of any anticipated uses of their information, in addition to applying mechanisms to protect that information. The province would penalize anyone who accesses documents without the right to do so.

A departmental health information officer would be appointed to be accountable for decisions made in relation to access granted. The Access to Information Commission would have the power to conduct investigations.

At a news conference on Friday, Quebec Solidaire health spokesperson Vincent Marissal expressed concern that personal information could be used for private purposes.

"We will be against any form of commercialization or even sharing of personal information that belongs to Quebecers," he said.

Dubé said the sale of health or social services information will be prohibited. He also gave himself one year after the adoption of the bill to make the changes provided for in it.

This is the third bill in a few weeks that the Legault government has introduced related to health care, following bills about doctors' pay and youth protection.

"These are three bills that the government says it is determined to support, but it (...) is going to have difficulty carrying out the consultations, doing the clause-by-clause study before the October 3, 2022 election," said Liberal party house leader André Fortin.

"For us, the government has put itself in a rather precarious position at this level."

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Dec. 3, 2021.

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