In recent years, Canada’s healthcare sector has faced an alarming surge in cyber attacks, posing severe threats to patient data security and the overall integrity of the healthcare system.

A series of incidents, including ransomware attacks and data breaches, have raised concerns about the vulnerability of the nation’s health infrastructure.

According to several reports by Global News and the Canadian Medical Association Journal, cyber attacks targeting healthcare organizations in Canada have increased. 

The consequences of these attacks extend beyond just data breaches, raising questions and concerns about patient privacy, the resilience of medical infrastructure and the urgent need for extra cybersecurity measures.

At least 14 major cyberattacks on Canadian health information systems have occurred since 2015, nine of which attempted ransom and six of which compromised Personal Health Information (PHI). 

The affected hospitals had been forced to postpone and reschedule many surgeries, appointments and general patient admissions.

In an August report, The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security warned that Canada’s critical infrastructure will “almost certainly” continue to be targeted by cybercriminals over the next two years. 

Now, the question of how hospital organizations are working to help prevent and restore these systems arises, but experts also say that every Canadian should have a copy of their own personal records.  

This way, it gives patients authority, control and responsibility over their care and experts say that it “helps patients to feel more empowered in their own care.” 

Medical Records and Cyber Attacks

While data breaches are something that healthcare organizations will continue to deal with, there are many ways you can take initiative and control when it comes to keeping your medical records safe and obtaining healthcare.

Websites such as MyChart, a secure, online patient portal that makes it easy for patients to access their health information from anywhere, is one way to have access to your own records. Each hospital, clinic or imaging centre has its own system however, so if you do not have a family doctor, make sure you ask for your post-visit records.

Health Insider Tip: Not only will having your own personal medical records allow you to have authority and control, but it empowers patients to be able to update primary care physicians or nurse practitioners should they encounter inaccuracies in their records. This supports vital communication between primary care providers and other health care practitioners.

In the event of a ransomware incident, where a clinic or hospital can no longer access its patient records, you will be able to present your copy of your record for proper and continuous care.

How to get a Copy of your Medical Records

If you are a caregiver, or are advocating on behalf of someone else’s healthcare management, having an updated copy of their medical records prevents medical errors and unnecessary repeated tests, and ensures that information (medications, test results etc.) is getting properly conveyed from one doctor to the next. This way, you can responsibly advocate in the patient’s best interest at all times.

In order to obtain a copy of your medical records, contact your health provider(s) directly and request access to your personal health information. You may be asked to submit the request in writing or fill out a form called a Request to Access Personal Health Information Form and they have 30 days to respond.

A fee may be  charged, but if there is a financial difficulty to meet the payment, most organizations have the ability to work with you to ensure that you have the information you require.

And remember that you must keep your medical records up to date and store them in a safe, secure spot that you can access from anywhere at any time. Eventually, you will undoubtedly be grateful that you did.

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