Liberal government tables bill that seeks to streamline, secure health data

The federal Liberals are moving to streamline and secure health data across jurisdictions with a bill that imposes new rules on technology vendors.

Health Minister Mark Holland tabled the legislation in the House of Commons on Thursday morning.

The bill would require vendors to ensure that health information tech they license, sell or supply as a service is interoperable.

That means patients and health-care providers would be able to completely and securely access the data and exchange it with other systems — for example, those being used in another hospital or jurisdiction.

The bill is meant to fill gaps in provinces and territories where similar provisions don’t already exist.

It also would prohibit data blocking, or any practice that would prevent, discourage or interfere with a user’s access to their own health data or their ability to transfer it to another system.

Last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered provinces and territories a new 10-year health accord in response to pleas from jurisdictions that said they were facing an urgent shortage of health workers and massive backlogs in the delivery of care.

In exchange for an estimated $17.3 billion in new health funding from the federal government through the Canada Health Transfer, Trudeau asked provinces to share comparable data and digitize the health information of Canadians so it can be more easily accessed and shared between hospitals, clinics and jurisdictions.

The federal government has argued that better comparable health data is an important part of making sure the new funds actually go toward improving health outcomes for Canadians.

All the provinces and territories have signed on to the deal as of March this year.

Canada Health Infoway has developed a federal and provincial plan to make individual health records and information more accessible to patients and clinicians, allowing them to be used to measure the health of the population and the system overall.

The group predicts health systems will save hundreds of millions of dollars and doctors could save millions of hours by making patient info and health data easier to access.

The plan is still in the very early stages and some provinces are farther along than others on upgrading their technology.

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