Dubé proposes rules to safeguard personal information in telehealth

A draft regulation presented on Wednesday establishes obligations that will be imposed on establishments and professionals that practice telemedicine.

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Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé presented on Wednesday a draft regulation to regulate and sustain telemedicine, particularly with regard to the protection of information.

The Réseau québécois de la télésanté, created in 2019, brings together stakeholders from the Ministry of Health and Social Services, the four telemedicine coordination centers, as well as the 34 health establishments.

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In addition to the virtual consultation, other types of meetings can be held with a professional. For example, the “télé-expertise” consists of a consultation between two health workers to confirm a diagnosis. There is also remote monitoring, which allows clinical data on a patient’s health status to be controlled remotely.

Telemedicine in the broad sense allowed for improved access to family doctors and specialists when it was necessary to avoid physical contact to limit the spread of COVID-19. But even outside the context of the pandemic, telemedicine has advantages, especially in making it easier for patients in remote regions of Quebec to access a doctor.

The Department of Health believes that the sustainability of telemedicine will avoid delays in treatment and offer greater flexibility to patients. They will continue to be seen in person when necessary.

Telemedicine also has its challenges. A 2022 report by Quebec’s auditor general on telemedicine acknowledged the existence of risks related to data hosting and the presence of unauthorized third parties during communications.

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The draft regulations presented on Wednesday reiterate that a person who consults a health professional via telehealth consents to the consultation being carried out in this way. It indicates that obligations will be imposed on both establishments and professionals who practice telemedicine.

They must inform them of the terms and conditions related to consent to remote care.

“An organization must ensure that members of its staff and practicing professionals, including students and interns, receive information protection training recognized by the Minister, upon taking up their duties or beginning to practice their profession.” within the organization,” reads the draft regulations.

Establishments or organizations must also retain the information they collect and ensure its protection at all times, in particular by adopting the necessary means to control access to the places where this information is kept.

They must also take the necessary measures to ensure that the information remains usable despite any incident affecting its support. They also have the obligation to establish a procedure in case of technological problems.

Telemedicine oversight is part of Dubé’s vision with his health plan. The government continues to work to implement the Votre santé digital platform, which will become the single entry point for access to health services.

The Canadian Press health coverage is supported through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. CP is solely responsible for this content.

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