UPDATED: Tougher legislation for snooping, poor disposal of health records

The Saskatchewan government has introduced amendmends that aim to "strengthen protection of personal health records". Monica Rodriguez / Getty Images

REGINA – Changes to health privacy laws could make it easier to prosecute someone who carelessly disposes of your medical records.

The Saskatchewan Government has introduced changes that aim to “strengthen protection of personal health records”, while putting a greater onus on those who handle personal information.

Amendments to the Health Information Protection Act (HIPA) will require trustees to show they “took all reasonable steps to prevent the abandonment” if health records are found unsecured.

A group was formed following several privacy breaches in 2011. In one case, 1,000 medical files were found in a south Regina recycling bin. This year, an investigation found detailed hormone therapy information was incorrectly faxed to a school.

The privacy commissioner’s office has also reported snooping complaints. HIPA amendments will also establish a “snooping offence” for employees who access patients’ information without a need for it.

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Former privacy commissioner Gary Dickson was previously critical of Saskatchewan’s health privacy legislation because no breach had ever been prosecuted.

“At this point, the bar has been very high in terms of what the prosecution has to prove in order to successfully prosecute a case and get a conviction,” health minister Dustin Duncan said Wednesday. “I think it’ll help to improve the odds we’ll see a successful prosecution.”

An individual that disposes of personal records incorrectly can be fined up to $50,000 and spend up to one year in jail.

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