Health privacy laws coming to Yukon

The Yukon could see new health privacy legislation this fall, according to a spokesperson for Health and Social Services. New laws for protecting patient information are “ready to go,” said Pat Living.

The Yukon could see new health privacy legislation this fall, according to a spokesperson for Health and Social Services.

New laws for protecting patient information are “ready to go,” said Pat Living.

Getting those rules in place is a necessary step towards creating an electronic health system for the territory, she said.

“If you have this kind of system where information is being held by multiple different players and being shared by multiple different players, there has to be a mechanism for protecting that information, and that people are using it appropriately.”

Yukon doctors and pharmacists have been calling for electronic tracking of prescribed medications for years.

The database would keep track of prescriptions filled by patients and would be accessible to health-care professionals across the territory.

A system like that would help pharmacists avoid medication conflicts and errors, said Josianne Gauthier, president of the Yukon Pharmacy Association.

“Let’s say a patient goes to the emergency department or a walk in clinic, gets a prescription for an antibiotic, and fills this prescription in the pharmacy, other than his and her regular pharmacy,” said Gauthier.

“Currently, there’s no way for the pharmacist to verify if the new medication conflicts with the patients other medications. Having a drug profile that is available online, 24/7, will certainly facilitate the work of the pharmacist.”

The association has been asking the territorial government to implement this for a few years, she said.

“Most other jurisdictions in Canada and in other countries have an electronic health record, and it has shown to be highly beneficial to pharmacists, physicians and other health-care providers.”

Dr. Rao Tadepalli, president of the Yukon Medical Association, said that the issue of electronic health records has been on the agenda for at least eight years.

Patients often assume that the doctor has their full medical history in front of them, when that is often not true, he said.

“At the end of the day we depend on you to tell us if you’ve taken the medication. There’s a lot of history missing.”

Living said that establishing a prescription tracking system is only one part of a much larger project to bring electronic health records to the Yukon.

“It’s not as easy as just setting up a tracking system for one program. There are a number of other things that have to come into place before we can even look at that.”

One complicating factor is that all the groups who might need access to health records are currently all working with different systems, she said.

And it’s not just doctors and pharmacists that deal with prescription medications, said Living. Dentists and some nurses, too, have limited powers to prescribe.

“How do we make everything work together?”

The government has been looking at this seriously for a while, but it’s not as simple as it might seem, said Living.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at jronson@yukon-news.com

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