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Privacy Commissioner awards $49,600 to the Universities of Alberta and Victoria for a study on PIPEDA and electronic health records

Ottawa, January 27, 2005 – The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart, is pleased to announce that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) is awarding $49,600, under its Contributions Program, to the Universities of Alberta and Victoria for a collaborative study on the application of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) to electronic health records. The University of Alberta Health Law Institute, the University Of Victoria School Of Information Science, and the University of Victoria Faculty of Business are partners in the initiative.

"Records about an individual's health, medical condition and treatment are clearly the most sensitive of personal information, and must be protected against inappropriate use or disclosure," said Ms. Stoddart. "At the same time, health professionals recognize that the sharing of patient information quickly and efficiently is of great benefit to the patient and the medical system, however there must be a better understanding of how to harmonize and protect electronic health records that may potentially be accessed by multiple providers, and what constitutes consent by a patient," she said.

The project will analyze the use of electronic health records in primary care and medical research, with a focus on issues of security and consent. Health information legislation in provincial jurisdictions will be examined using case examples of electronic health records at various levels. An analysis will be made of the role of PIPEDA in protecting personal health information, and gaps in privacy protection will be identified.

"Our project hopes to clarify the application of this legislative patchwork in the health sector and provide tools to address critical issues at the intersection of health care delivery, information systems, and privacy," says Nola Ries, Research Associate at the Health Law Institute.

The PIPEDA and electronic health records project is funded from the OPC's Contributions Program, launched in June 2004, to foster and develop Canada's national capacity for research into privacy issues and emerging technologies. The project is one of 10 research initiatives funded by the OPC.

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For more information, please contact:

Renée Couturier
Director, Public Education and Communications
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Tel: (613) 995-0103

Nola M. Ries, MPA, LLM
Research Associate
Health Law Institute, University of Alberta
Tel: (780) 492 7577

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