eHealth hits Yukon

The Yukon government is hoping to digitize health records. It's not a new idea. The territory is one of the last regions in Canada to look into it.

The Yukon government is hoping to digitize health records.

It’s not a new idea. The territory is one of the last regions in Canada to look into it.

Now, the government wants to hear Yukoners’ suggestions about what the new law should look like.

Making personal health information digital is controversial. The hard part is balancing privacy rights with health-care efficiency.

The Yukon must also try to be consistent with other regions and the laws they’ve established.

“So, in the longer term, information flows around our health care, about our health care, and can go across jurisdictions as we travel across jurisdictions,” said Lynda Ehrlich, a senior policy analyst for the Yukon government.

A group made up of Yukon nurses, First Nations, pharmacists, doctors, hospitals and governments spent the last few months looking at legislation from other regions. It’s also made a booklet of recommendations for eHealth law in the territory.

New legislation isn’t expected for a couple of years, but some things have been figured out already, said Ehrlich. You may own your health information. But that doesn’t mean you will be able to carry around your medical file on a flash drive.

There are designated “custodians” of the electronic files, like a doctor or health-care provider, said Ehrlich. The laws will dictate what those custodians can do with the information, including allowing them to charge patients for requesting copies or for the ability to see their own files on a computer.

The latest eHealth controversy came from Ontario where then-Health minister George Smitherman resigned to run for Toronto mayor just before the auditor general uncovered $1 billion was spent on underused computer systems and untendered contracts.

As the Yukon digitizes health records oversight will fall under the privacy commissioner, said Ehrlich.

Yukoners have until July 31 to offer their comments. They can do so online, at the Department of Health and Social Services’ website, by mail or email to healthprivacy@gov.yk.ca or by calling toll free to 1-800-661-0408 extension 5747. Requests for full meetings will also be granted, said Ehrlich.

After July, the department will review the comments and begin drafting the eHealth legislation.