E-Health Records Symposium

Dr. Patricia Hughes has been the Executive Director of the Law Commission of Ontario since September 15, 2007, and is an ex-officio member of the LCO Board of Governors.

On January 28, 2010, the Law Commission of Ontario and IP Osgoode held a Symposium on electronic medical records. The Symposium brought together experts from law, academia, health and other areas as part of the consultation that Professor Pina D’Agostino is carrying out in her project on the intersection of IP, ethics and privacy issues arising from electronic medical records. Professor D’Agostino is an Osgoode LCO Scholar in Residence and she is carrying out her project in association with the LCO. All these issues were discussed, with some passion in some cases, but so was a more fundamental question about the scope of e-health records.

There wasn’t really a debate about keeping electronic records, the issue was how widespread the network of records should be beyond the doctor’s office or other local network. For some people, medicine is locally delivered and it isn’t necessary to have more extensive networks. For others, a more extensive network, even a national network, can help patient care. Maintaining local networks can allow for more control (unless someone hacks it or someone is careless), but as a patient who has lived in three provinces and experienced my “local” and regular health care in more than one doctor’s office or clinic in each of those provinces (I am not even including having tests at different hospitals), the delivery of medical care hasn’t seemed “local” to me.

At the same time, the more extensive the network is, the more extensive the protocol for protecting privacy needs to be. Not an easy task. And privacy comes into play only if we know who owns that x-ray of my insides: me (probably the last on the list, it’s only my insides after all), the technician (whose skills allowed the best picture to be produced), the hospital or the doctor or the software company? As the least connected person at the Symposium (meaning with no expertise in the area at all), there only because the LCO is supporting the project and because of my innate curiosity which I’m able to feed through my work with the LCO, I left with my usual feeling that as we continue to develop digital practices and complicate the big business of intellectual property, those at the centre – those most affected – have the least control.