Commissioner Responds to the Final Report of the Select Special Health Information Act Review Committee

October 21, 2004

Frank Work, Alberta’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, issued his comments today on the release of the Final Report of the Select Special Health Information Act Review Committee.

There are a number of positive outcomes arising from the Committee’s recommendations including:

  • The authority to publish ethics committee research approvals on a website is a positive as it provides for increased openness, accountability and transparency for Albertans
  • Recommending against certain disclosures without consent, specifically disclosure for common or integrated government programs. The Commissioner believes this is an extremely broad category of disclosure without consent.

The Commissioner also had a number of concerns with some of the Committee’s recommendations, including the failure to address substantive issues such as:

  • The issue of expanding the scope of the Act to include privately funded health professionals, organizations, and health clinics of post-secondary educational institutions was deferred to a committee of the Legislature to be established in early 2005. The Commissioner believes that this leaves a gap in legislation with no provincial access or privacy legislation for the privately funded health sector and needs to be addressed immediately.
  • Also deferred to the future 2005 committee:
    • whether genetic information should be explicitly addressed,
    • whether health service provider information should remain under the Act,
    • examining the need for more clear and transparent rules for the electronic health record,
    • harmonizing the Act to the rules of the pan-Canadian health information privacy and confidentiality framework,
    • the Commissioner’s request for the explicit right to conduct and compel information for purposes of conducting audits, and
    • the Commissioner’s request for explicit power to enter into extra- provincial agreements and to consult and delegate extra-provincially.

The Commissioner is not opposed to the creation of a discretionary authority for custodians to disclose limited registration information to law enforcement agencies for the purposes of obtaining search warrants or subpoenas. However, he opposes the creation of mandatory disclosure and reporting of health information to law enforcement and is concerned about the lack of certainty for custodians.