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Canadian Information and Privacy Regulators Call for Stronger Safeguards for Sharing Personal Health Information

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Sep 26, 2022

Canadian Information and Privacy Regulators Urge Governments, Healthcare Sector to Strengthen Safeguards for Sharing Personal Health Information

Protecting sensitive personal health information is critical to maintaining Canadians' trust in the health system.

Despite rapid digital advancements in the healthcare sector, using outdated and vulnerable technologies, such as faxes and unencrypted email, threatens to erode the public’s confidence that their personal health information is secure.

In a joint resolution, Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial information and privacy commissioners and ombudspersons are calling for a concerted effort across the healthcare sector to modernize and strengthen privacy protections for sharing personal health information.

The joint resolution outlines measures for adoption by governments, health institutions, and health care providers. They include:

  • Putting in place a coordinated plan backed by government funding and other incentives to support phasing out fax machines and unencrypted email in the delivery of patient care across Canada as quickly as possible
  • Promoting the adoption of secure digital technologies and responsible data governance frameworks to protect personal health information against unauthorized access or inadvertent disclosure

Personal Health Information is one of the most sensitive types of information about an individual.  Misdirected communication (email, fax, mail) accounted for almost half of the privacy breaches reported to office of the Manitoba Ombudsman.

“Adopting secure digital alternatives to fax machines and unencrypted email whenever possible will help increase security and minimize the potentially damaging impact from data breaches,” said Manitoba Ombudsman Jill Perron. “A secure digital health infrastructure can help protect privacy and enhance public trust in the delivery of health care.”

Related documents:

Securing Public Trust in Digital Healthcare - Resolution of the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Privacy Commissioners and Ombudspersons with Responsibility for Privacy Oversight

Susciter la confiance du public dans les services de santé numériques - Résolution des commissaires fédéral, provinciaux et territoriaux à la protection de la vie privée et des ombudsmans responsables de la protection de la vie privée