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Alberta currently receives about 60 notifications of health-related privacy breaches every year.
With the new legislation in place Hamilton estimates they will receive thousands.
Brian Hamilton, Alberta’s privacy spokesman, said medical records are about as sensitive as it gets, and as patient files are rapidly uploaded into the online world, the potential for privacy violations increases, making this legislative change even more critical.
Hamilton, the director of compliance and special investigations at the Information and Privacy Commission of Alberta, said people could be hurt or humiliated if someone pried into their health records.
Saskatchewan Privacy Commissioner Ron Kruzeniski has only been in the role for six months and has already flagged this issue as a shortcoming in the provincial legislation.
A new legislative change in Alberta, set to come into force this spring, will make it obligatory for hospitals to notify the privacy commission of serious health-related breaches.
Hamilton viewed this legislation change as a huge improvement to the current system, citing a rising number of cases in which doctors had been caught snooping into the records of new lovers or ex-partners.“A number of the breaches we often see relate to relationships, custody disputes or personal disputes,” he said.
A recent Star investigation found hundreds of serious health-related privacy breaches were going unreported to Ontario’s privacy commission because a legislative oversight allows hospitals to handle such violations internally.
When the Star notified Brian Beamish, the province’s acting information and privacy commissioner, of some of the unreported breaches, he said he would like to see legislative change to force Ontario hospitals to report serious violations to his office.
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In another incident, a pharmacist in a dispute with fellow congregants at her church opened their medical records to pull information about their birth control prescriptions and posted it on Facebook.