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Personal health records

Canadian experts analyze PHRs, patient portals

VANCOUVER – CanadianEMR has posted its latest in a series of podcasts at, this time on the high-profile topics of Personal Health Records and Patient Portals.

A national group of panelists debated the benefits and challenges associated with these recent developments. As health systems migrate towards electronic health records, personal health records have gained increasing prominence. Software giants Microsoft and Google have each released their respective PHRs, and a variety of additional players in Canada have emerged, including Telus.

With all of this information being collected and shared in PHRs, privacy concerns have surfaced. Can Google and Microsoft be trusted with your most private information? Would the insurance and pharmaceutical industries not want access to confidential patient data?

On the other hand, is the Personal Health Record a more logical and safer approach to the management of confidential information, compared with the large Electronic Health Records systems that are being created at the provincial or regional levels?

Participants in the roundtable included:
• Dr. Ann Cavoukian - Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario

• Dr. Jay Mercer - Family Physician and Senior Physician Advisor, Canadian Medical Association, Ottawa, Ontario

• Sam Marafioti - Chief Information Officer at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto

• Dr. David Wiljer - Director of Knowledge Management and Innovation at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto

Guest Questions were posed by:
• Michael Martineau: What rights do patients have to access their own personal health data (in whatever format)? If this data is stored electronically, do they have a right to request an electronic copy or electronic access? Could a private company providing a PHR service request access to a patient’s personal health information (in whatever format) if authorized to do so by the patient?

• Nancy Gabor: It has been said that if physicians are forced to share EMR information with patients (via their PHR or otherwise), they are likely to document less information, or keep a separate record for internal use. Please comment on the issue of liability with regards to sharing EMR data with patients, and what you see as an appropriate solution to this issue.

• Eric Gombrich: A patient undergoing chemo for a confirmed lymphoma may want, and their physician may agree to allow them, to see the latest biopsy findings. However, the MD for a patient who is highly volatile with an undefined mass may not want that patient to see the biopsy results. How are we to control this? Is it through the PHR or the EMR?

For the complete Q&A, listen to the podcast at

Posted Jan. 14, 2010