Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, tabled Bill 19, creating the Act respecting health and social services information and amending various legislative provisions to provide a framework for access to health information by users, professionals, health system managers and researchers.
What’s contained in the Bill
In addition to creating a new Act respecting health and social services information, the Bill amends 26 Acts and repeals the Act respecting the sharing of certain health information which, until now, covered the Québec Health Record. The new Act provides Québec with a full legislative framework for health information, as existed in most other provinces. The definition of "health information" is broad and includes any information held by a health care body about a person, including information about the person’s health status, samples collected in the course of treatment or services provided to the person, whether or not the information allows the person to be identified.
Consistent with the lessons learned from the pandemic, the Bill aims to achieve a better overview of health information at the national level as well as for local management of information. To this end, a health information access authorization manager will be appointed within the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS) to oversee the information access authorizations, as required.
The health and social services bodies will each be required to create a policy governing their management of health information, which will include appointing an internal lead and establishing a process for logging information.
With respect to the protection of the health care system users, the Bill establishes a person’s right to access his or her personal information and to request the rectification of that information where necessary. It also puts forward a general principle that, whenever possible, access to or use of health information should be in a form that does not identify the person.
In terms of research, the Bill aims to facilitate researchers’ access to health information where the information is necessary for carrying out a research project approved by an ethics committee.
The main purpose of the Bill is to provide better and timely access to health information, while establishing rights for users to better control and protect their health information.
In that respect, many of the principles put forward by Bill 19 are consistent with those found in Bill 64, passed on September 21 by the National Assembly. The Commission d’accès à l’information is also given monitoring and investigative powers similar to those found in Bill 64.
It will be interesting to see what regulations, procedures and other mechanisms will be adopted by the government, including those that will specify the governance and security rules surrounding access to health data. The MSSS will also have to draw up a list of certified technologies that can be used in managing health information.