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Re: Amendments to the Personal Health Information Act

With the passing of the Financial Measures Act, the government now has authority to make regulations requiring physicians to disclose all health records to the Minister.

The Minister has authority to access this personal health information for system planning and improvement. The government sees this authority as needed to empower patients and to inform the management of the healthcare system with data. The College supports the importance of these goals.

When I appeared before the Law Amendments Committee, I advanced the position that the Minister’s access to personal health information should be restricted to only aggregate, de-identified data.

Following this, I had multiple conversations with the Premier, the Deputy Minister and her staff. The College submitted language to the government seeking to limit the Minister’s access to information. The College’s language supported the disclosure of health records to enable system learning and initiatives like One Patient One Record or YourHealthNS.

The government disagreed with our proposed language, but did so only after genuine, earnest consideration. I believe the College was fully heard and our submissions were thoroughly considered.

In response to our concerns, the government committed to address patient confidentiality and the sanctity of the therapeutic relationship through other means. I am confident this can be achieved. Specifically, the government committed to putting together a Standing Committee to inform regulations and data governance, particularly as they pertain to access and use of personal health information. The College has been invited to sit at that table.

The College recognizes our system needs data to move forward and learn from itself. Our patients seek empowerment through access to their history with the health system. At the same time, the trustworthiness of the patient-doctor relationship needs to be preserved. The College will represent the interest of patients and the medical profession in the search for that balance.

On a personal note, I wish to express my thanks to the College’s Council, comprised of elected physicians and members of the public, for their advice and support throughout this important matter.


Dr. D.A. (Gus) Grant
Registrar and CEO
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia