Getting quick answers for a medical condition could be a hassle in Canada, but getting a complete picture of your health records can be a nightmare.
Alberta is closer than other provinces in having a unified Electronic Health Record (EHR) system that serves as a single patient record. To improve the quality of healthcare and integrate the ideal of patient-centred care and health self-management, patients need full access and co-ownership of their health records. To that end, Alberta Health Services and the provincial government intend to allow patients access to their health files through the Patient Health Record (PHR) program. However, the provincial roll-out of the PHR has faced numerous setbacks and the initial targets are far from being met.
The current health information network is a linear model where patients enter the health system and data is collected from them at the point of care. This information is shared on behalf of the individual with other health providers through NetCare. However, some information is not shared. The system, and in effect the patient’s record, is disintegrated as clinicians have their own data that is not being incorporated into the provincial-electronic health record—NetCare.
Currently, only physicians and authorized custodians have immediate access to all patient EHRs through Alberta Netcare. The main contention involves reconciling transparency with privacy and disclosure—a clear order of precedent needs to be created for privacy rights or rights to accessing personal information. A policy needs to be established by Alberta Health to promote data sharing and forming a unified EHR network that will serve as a single-patient record. This policy should also allow patients immediate and full access to their records through the PHR. However, the law could limit this policy because the Health Information Act places the burden of privacy protection, and in effect ownership of the records, upon the health providers.
The proposed cyclical model creates a paradigm shift where all health care providers and patients are on the same page.