Canadian patients should have online access to their medical records, some doctors say

August 7, 2018

When Amelda Wright, 78, gets a new test as part of her cancer care, her daughter logs into her patient record from home so she can tell her the results.  

"You do feel more in control. You're part of the care," Yvonne Wright said.

The hospital treating her mother is part of the University Health Network in Toronto, part of a patchwork of Canadian health-care centres that have started adopting "patient portals," which allow patients — or someone else they authorize — to access their health information online.

Such portals should be universally available as part of patient care across Canada, two Toronto doctors argue in a commentary recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

Provincial and territorial governments, which have jurisdiction over health care for most Canadians, should mandate centralized access to electronic medical records, wrote family physician Dr. Iris Gorfinkel and emergency physician Dr. Joel Lexchin. 

"Such a commitment to health information transparency would herald a new era in patient empowerment," they said.

"Records accessible to patients need not be all inclusive, but should, at a minimum, include the primary care physician's cumulative patient profile."

That includes a summary of a patient's "social, family, medical and surgical history; substance use; current medications; previous drug intolerances; and drug allergies," they said.

Consultation notes from specialists, radiology and lab reports should also be available. 

That kind of information would empower patients, change the nature of the dialogue with physicians and help them stay on top of their own health care, Gorfinkel told CBC News. 

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