VCH General Legal Counsel and Privacy Officer Steven Tam speaks about privacy issues

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In an effort to build relationships between doctors and VCH leadership, the Vancouver Physician Staff Association (VPSA) hosts monthly breakfast meetings where matters of mutual interest can be discussed. General Legal Counsel & Chief Privacy Officer Steven Tam was the guest on April 4.

“We want to move the way privacy is handled, not just within VCH, but also provincially,” stated Steven. “The digitization of health records means there’s a lot more at stake and there are more contentious issues than existed before. This comes from gathering data and sharing it, as well as linking and analyzing data. VCH needs to support this process and streamline it. A lot of people want information for studies and research. We need a common understanding of the issues and compliance in order to get everyone on the same page.”

“What about telemedicine and using emails and texts to provide patient care,” asked endocrinologist Dr. Marshall Dahl. “The current playing field is like the Wild West with many companies wanting to sell their platforms, yet many of these rely on servers hosted in the USA that we are prohibited from using. How can we move forward?”

“This is a highly problematic area,” responded Steven. “The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Actapplies to personal information collected, used, or disclosed by physicians in hospitals and prohibits us from storing personal information outside of Canada; but the Personal Information Protection Act, which applies to personal information collected, used or disclosed by physicians in private practice, doesn’t have this regulation. This inconsistency is coming to a head and the provincial government is developing new legislation so that the same rules apply to primary and acute care. The current legislation actually impedes public bodies from getting the most secure technology as these are often developed by American companies.”

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