Canadians' support for electronic health records increases to 88 per cent, poll finds - Need to protect privacy remains paramount

    TORONTO, Nov. 19 /CNW Telbec/ - Canadians support the use of electronic
health records (EHRs) and expect their privacy to be protected in the
collection, storage and use of their personal health information, according to
a new public opinion survey.
    "The Government is committed to pursuing new technologies that improve
health care delivery while ensuring the privacy of personal information," said
the Honourable Tony Clement, federal Minister of Health. "Once fully
implemented, private and secure electronic health records will increase
efficiencies, reduce wait times and result in significant savings in our
health care system."
    Almost nine in 10 Canadians (88 per cent) support the development of EHRs
- a five per cent increase since 2003.
    EHRs provide authorized clinicians with a wide range of medical data such
as a patient's allergies, lab test results, digitized x-rays or prescription
history. The result is more coordinated care, increased efficiency, cost
savings and reduced medical errors. While most Canadians' medical information
remains paper-based across Canada, Canada Health Infoway is leading the
implementation of EHRs with initiatives underway in every province and
    "As EHRs take root across our health care system, many Canadians are
surprised to learn that authorized clinicians can't already access their basic
medical information stored across town at a time when automatic teller
machines around the world can validate their banking information to dispense
cash when they travel abroad," said Richard Alvarez, President and CEO of
Canada Health Infoway, a federally-funded, independent, not-for-profit
organization leading the development and implementation of electronic health
projects across Canada. "This research confirms Canadians support the
acceleration of private and secure electronic health records."
    The poll showed nearly two-thirds of Canadians believe there are few
types of personal information that are more important for privacy laws to
protect than personal health information.
    "It is clear Canadians want the protection of their privacy to be a key
factor as we consider both how these highly sensitive records are managed, as
well as potential secondary uses for this information including health
research," said Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
    Other key survey findings include:

    - 31 per cent of respondents reported they had experience with an
      electronic health record during an interaction with the health care
      system. When asked to how the EHR system compared to the paper system
      in terms of overall effectiveness for the health care system, an
      overwhelming majority (89 per cent) said the electronic system was
    - 87 per cent of Canadians believe electronic health records will make
      diagnosis quicker and more accurate, while 82 per cent believe they
      will reduce prescription errors and 84 per cent would like to be able
      to access their own medical records online.
    - Canadians want to ensure that privacy and security safeguards are in
      place to protect their health information. 77 per cent would like audit
      trails that document access to their health information. 74 per cent
      want strong penalties for unauthorized access. 66 per cent of Canadians
      want clear privacy policies to protect their health information. In the
      event of a security breach, 7 in 10 want to be informed and would like
      procedures in place to respond to such breaches.
    - Those who have had experience with an electronic health record showed
      an even stronger support for privacy and security safeguards.
    - A majority of Canadians (55 per cent) would like to be able to hide or
      mask sensitive information contained in their record.
    - While the poll shows strong support (84 per cent) for using anonymous
      information from electronic records for health research, this support
      drops dramatically if personal details are not removed from the record
      (50 per cent).

    Canada's federal, provincial and territorial health ministries have
joined together in a plan to develop new health information systems that can
speak to each other. Under this plan, half of Canadians will have their
electronic health record available to authorized health care providers by
    The goal is to establish a network of interoperable electronic health
record solutions across Canada which will link clinics, hospitals, pharmacies
and other clinicians in order to improve access to health care services,
enhance quality of care and make the health care system safer and more
    An electronic health record includes a lifetime record of an individual's
health and care history, offering authorized health care professionals with
immediate access to information such as laboratory test results, past
treatments, prescription drug profiles and immunization records.
    The Electronic Health Information and Privacy Survey was jointly funded
by Canada Health Infoway, Health Canada and the Office of the Privacy
Commissioner of Canada. It was conducted by EKOS Research Associates and
included interviews with 2,469 Canadians in June and July, 2007. The results
are considered statistically accurate to within plus or minus two percentage
points 19 times out of 20.

    The full survey report is available at

For further information:

For further information: Dan Strasbourg, Director, Media Relations,
Canada Health Infoway, (416) 595-3424,; Colin
McKay, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, (613) 995-0103,

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