Who owns your health records? You do.

The hot topic at last week’s gathering of Canadian health ministers was on the billions of healthcare dollars transferred between the federal government and the provinces and territories. In an increasingly data-driven world, Canadians should be equally concerned about the ‘investment’ and accountability on the use of their personal health information, a critical asset that is currently locked away in the healthcare system, inaccessible to patients. With the federal government negotiating a new health accord with the provinces and territories, Canadians should call for the liberation of their health data from the silos that riddle the national health information landscape.

Canada’s single-payer public healthcare system was once regarded as a world leader. Thanks to disjointed efforts by our federal and provincial governments and healthcare providers, Canada now lags behind many other OECD nations — including Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States — on the use of electronic medical records. This conspicuous deficiency has weakened other areas in our healthcare system, including timely access to care and care coordination and transition for older adults.

The current Canadian health information landscape is a mess, consisting of hundreds of different electronic health record systems that don’t communicate with each other. Our federal government has spent more than $2 billion on electronic medical record systems, and has delivered only siloed portals that provide crumbs of personal health information, an incomplete and dangerous picture. Democratizing access to medical records not only gives patients more timely access to care and better quality of care, but is also the keystone for healthcare transparency and accountability.

The solution could be simple. Many people believe their health information has to stay locked up in their doctor’s office. In fact, Canadians in every province and territory have a legislated right to access and use their personal health information however they choose. But too often do doctors, hospitals, and governments take a paternalistic approach to regulating the health information that patients should see. Those who want full access face steep fees, onerous administrative processes at each of their healthcare providers, and wait up to 60 days before seeing their information. Imagine needing to go through all these steps at the bank just to see your account balance!

Many of the healthcare priorities targeted by the federal Minister of Health can be addressed with a patient-centric health information strategy. With full access to their health information, patients can derive the most benefit from their health care — from flagging and correcting info that could lead to potentially deadly medical errors, to easily coordinating care among informal caregivers and healthcare providers. Our new health accord must create a culture where patient ownership of health information is encouraged, and patients become true partners in their own healthcare.

Derrick Chow is a co-founder and chief operating officer of MedChart.

MedChart offers a transformative, made-in-Canada solution to help break down health information barriers and empower patients with their own medical records — as simple and secure as online banking.

Visit us at https://www.medchart.ca.