Systematic sharing of mental health data is not possible (Vigilance Commission)

The Commission on Vigilance in Mental Health Care is sounding the alarm and calling for a public debate on the coding of mental health data in electronic health records. Systematic sharing of this data can have harmful consequences for patients. Its special nature must be taken into account.

The Quality Act requires the maintenance of an electronic patient file (EPD). It is clear that by facilitating the exchange of information about a patient’s physical health, this system can provide important services to patients. It can even save lives. But, as Dr. Jacques de Tovey warned in 2022, there are risks to privacy and medical confidentiality. The situation becomes even more delicate when it comes to mental health.

In this area, the Mental Health Vigilance Commission says in a recent letter, “The use of this register may have harmful consequences and become an obstacle to accessing psychiatric and mental health care, as well as an obstacle to the effective provision of such care.” Caring for “worry”. The Vigilance Committee adds that the difficulty of enforcing the right to be forgotten further exacerbates the situation.

The Data Protection Authority’s recommendations regarding the draft quality law do not appear to have been taken into account. It also appears that letters to the Federal Public Health Service were not heeded. The Committee considers that “the obligation to respect psychological privacy contradicts the obligation to systematically open the EPD file. The principle of ‘passive’ consent cannot be applied to data sharing, as long as the patient does not object.”

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To avoid these pitfalls, the Vigilance Commission considers it necessary for doctors to decide, in consultation with their patients, whether or not to open an electronic patient file, and to ensure that the data entered into it can be “formally objectified”. In addition to clear rules to respect privacy and medical confidentiality, the Committee calls for legal recognition of the specific nature of the data entrusted to mental health professionals when opening an EPD file. In particular, it draws attention to “the protection of the confidentiality of minors and their consent to the exchange of intimate data, especially with regard to their parents or legal guardians.” Since this is a community choice, the committee calls for public discussion on this issue.

> Read the message Committee on Vigilance in Mental Health Care

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Megan Vasquez

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