Case Study

Saskatoon Health Region

Saskatoon Health Region is the largest Health Region and leading employer in Saskatchewan, serving 289,000 local residents in more than 100 cities, towns, villages, regional municipalities, and First Nation communities.

The Challenge

Create a proper automated system that could enhance productivity and safeguard private information.

The Solution

AccessPro Suite Case Management was employed as a central repository to track and manage FOI requests.  AccessPro Redaction tools were used to quickly and easily redact documents while protecting sensitive information guarded by the Health Information and Privacy Act.  Saskatoon Health Region is now celebrating smoother operations, improved efficiency, and the assurance of legislative compliance after implementing the AccessPro solution.

The Details

The Saskatoon Health Region acts as an integrated health delivery agency, providing a range of services and programs in more than 75 facilities including 10 hospitals, 29 long-term care facilities, primary health care sites, public health centres, mental health and addictions centres.

In April of 1992, Saskatchewan proclaimed Western Canada’s first comprehensive access and privacy law, The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP). The following year, Saskatchewan enacted The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (LA FOIP), with the purpose of ensuring transparency and accountability within local authorities such as regional health authorities.

Freedom of Information (FOI) provides access to most records under the control of a public body, excluding personal health information, while still protecting the privacy rights of individuals.

The Health Information Protection Act (HIPA) was enacted in 2003 to protect the privacy of personal health information of the people of Saskatchewan. At the same time, the Act provides for information to be available when needed to provide health care services and to monitor, evaluate and improve the health system in Saskatchewan on a need to know basis and deemed consent.

Saskatoon Health Region is required to record and maintain personal health information for all patients throughout the Health Region, including details of care plans, all care provided, and the results of all tests, procedures and therapies. Demographic information is also recorded for purposes of identification, billing, and registration.

Individuals have the right to read or request a copy of their health information, and may also give a family member or friend written permission to have access to this information. Members of an associated health care team may also gain access to the information in order to plan and provide appropriate care. In some situations, the law requires information to be disclosed without consent, for example, when public safety is at risk.

Privacy is a priority for Saskatoon Health Region. The Privacy and Access Office ensures access to personal health information is for purposes related to continuing care only and has a duty to safeguard against the inadvertent release of or inappropriate use and disclosure of confidential information.

Breaches of privacy within the Health Region are reported to the Access and Privacy Office and investigated often in consultation with the Saskatchewan Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. Consultations make up 50 requests per month.

Freedom of Information legislation outlines specific exemptions which allow for non-disclosure of certain information. If a requested record includes confidential information, the sensitive portion of the record will not be released. This enables an applicant to have access to a particular record, while maintaining the duty of the Authority under the Act to protect specific information.

Managing timelines is a critical aspect to meeting the requirements of freedom of information and privacy legislation and delivering on public expectations. As prescribed by the legislation, the Privacy and Access Office has 30 days to respond to requests.

Previously, Saskatoon Health Region used tables in a word processing application to track requests and complaints. Similar to other organizations, to remove content subject to exemptions, they used a black marker and photocopier. Together, the process proved labour intensive, time consuming and was open to inconsistency.

Jayden Stephens, Privacy Officer for Saskatoon Health Region felt that with an automated solution, the team of 2 full-time and 2 part-time staff could perform manual tasks more effectively and turn requests around more quickly. He also believed that the team would need to handle an increased volume of requests as privacy awareness increased, and felt this could be handled with the existing staffing levels if he could furnish them with a proper system that could enhance productivity.

Saskatoon Health Region undertook a thorough investigation of options to automate the management and tracking of their processes.

After validating with contacts throughout the public sector, CSDC emerged as a leading case management vendor, and in fact the leading FOI vendor.

The fact that CSDC specialized in FOI was an important decision criterion, but also the fact that the Health Region would be able to manage newly mandated legislation with the same tool was the deciding factor in choosing CSDC’s AccessPro Suite. Explains Mr. Stephens: “We knew we were aligning with the Canadian Federal Government standard for managing FOI operations. CSDC AccessPro Suite provided an out-of-the-box solution for FOI case management. This meant that we could turn our focus towards tailoring a solution for our HIPA requirements.”

He adds “Without CSDC, we may have never taken the time to do the process mapping to the degree that we did. CSDC Process Analysts actually helped interpret for us what was brand new legislation at the time. In doing so, they were able to get us up to speed quickly and onto the business of overseeing privacy related activity within the region.”

The result was the deployment of AccessPro Case Management as a central repository for tracking and managing all requests into the Office.

AccessPro Redaction was installed to give staff the ability to securely and electronically remove exempted information from requested documents.

The results have been significant. The agency is reporting an improved ability to meet aggressive response timelines often considered unreasonable.

Mr. Stephens now monitors operations systematically. He is able to keep a pulse on performance metrics, allowing him to identify educational requirements throughout the region. Through AccessPro Case Management, he ensures that applicable legislation is being followed and that all members of the team are providing responses consistently.

Tracking and reporting on responses has become much simpler, by accessing a complete audit trail of all activities performed on cases within AccessPro.

Internal benefits include making working together easier as a result of all stakeholders being able to refer to the same information. Region staff continue to find additional opportunities for the AccessPro Suite to au­tomate processes within the department. One such example was with a requirement for a report on infant mortality. When sharing it amongst physicians, they used AccessPro Redaction to remove non-disclosable information.

Based on their experience with CSDC, Saskatoon Health Region is encouraging other provincial agencies to adopt the AccessPro Suite. They cite smoother operations, improved efficiency, and the assurance of legislative compliance as some of the benefits to expect. 

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