Protection of digital health information: Examining guidance from the physician regulatory colleges in Canada Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Background: The use of information and communication technology (ICT) has tremendous potential to enhance communication among physicians, leading to improvements in service delivery. However, the protection of health information in digital/electronic format is an ongoing concern. Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine guidance for the protection of health information when using ICT from all 10 of Canada’s provincial regulatory colleges for physicians and to discuss the potential policy and service delivery implications. Method: A search of the regulatory college websites was conducted, followed by a document analysis (content and thematic). Results: The college website search identified 522 documents; 12 of these documents (from 8 of the 10 colleges) met the study criteria. These documents were notable for the considerable variation in the scope and detail of guidance provided across the colleges. Conclusion: While the federal–provincial division of powers in Canada enables different jurisdictional approaches to health service delivery and, thus, opportunities for policy learning, this governing structure may also contribute to a lack of incentive for collaboration, leading to an absence of standardised guidance for health information protection when using ICT. This, in turn, may result in unequal and inequitable protection of health information across the provinces. Therefore, a macro-level approach to policy development in this area may hold the greatest promise for enhancing the protection of health information and doing so in a more standardised manner in countries with federal systems of governance.

publication date

  • September 11, 2019