1. What is the Public Health Information Solution (PHIS)?
Preventing and managing outbreaks of notifiable diseases, such as COVID, SARS, influenza, H1N1, whooping cough and E. coli, is crucial to ensuring the health and safety of New Brunswick residents. PHIS helps to protect public health by providing a secure, integrated solution that supports the delivery of publicly-funded immunizations and the management of notifiable diseases and events in New Brunswick. PHIS consists of three key components:
- Inventory Management: PHIS allows Public Health to efficiently and accurately plan, requisition and manage the supply of vaccines and other immunizing agents to ensure that appropriate levels are available when and where they are needed while minimizing wastage.
- Immunization Management: PHIS maintains a comprehensive, up-to-date repository of immunization information pertaining to anyone receiving publicly-funded immunizations in New Brunswick, enabling Public Health officials to record, monitor, forecast and plan for the delivery of immunizations.
- Investigations and Outbreak Management: Investigations and outbreak management enables Public Health officials to more efficiently identify and investigate potential cases and contacts of notifiable diseases and events. It also allows Public Health to quickly share important information and respond to outbreaks when they occur.
2. Who is responsible for PHIS?
There are several organizations involved in the delivery, implementation, management and use of PHIS, including the following:
- Public Health New Brunswick (PHNB) within the Department of Health is responsible for defining policy and overseeing public health in New Brunswick. Public Health New Brunswick (PHNB) is the business owner for PHIS.
- Public Health officials in the two regional health authorities (RHAs), the Horizon Health Network and the Vitalité Health Network, use PHIS to manage immunizations, investigations and outbreaks within their jurisdictions.
- Participating First Nations Communities use PHIS to manage immunizations, investigations and outbreaks within their communities.
- Service New Brunswick provides information technology services to the Department of Health to support in the implementation and management of PHIS.
- PHIS is based on the “Public Health Solution for Disease Surveillance and Management”, or “Panorama”, a system provided by IBM Canada as a fully managed, hosted solution.
- The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD) facilitates the collection of school information about students from schools across the province.
- The Department of Public Safety uses PHIS to assist in the investigation of certain events involving the Department’s mandate for public safety.
3. What personal health information is included in PHIS, and for what purposes?
PHIS involves personal health information about most New Brunswick residents, as well as other individuals who may have come into contact with the New Brunswick health care system. This includes the following categories of personal health information:
- Identifying Information: PHIS records identifying information, including such things as name, address, Medicare and/or other health identification numbers, age, phone number, email address, gender, and language preference. This information is required to ensure that residents are accurately identified and that they can be contacted when required.
- School Information: Information about school, grade and class is used to monitor the immunization status of students, to plan and deliver school immunization clinics, and to assist in investigations and outbreak management.
- Allergies: Information about allergies is used to identify and prevent allergic reactions to immunizations.
- Immunization Profile: PHIS records a comprehensive, longitudinal profile of publicly-funded immunizations, including the specific immunizations delivered, when, where and by whom.
- Adverse Events Following Immunization: Adverse events following immunization are recorded in PHIS to identify, respond to, and prevent unwanted or unexpected reactions to immunizations.
- Laboratory Results: Certain lab results are captured in PHIS to help identify and respond to notifiable diseases.
- Investigation Records: PHIS allows Public Health officials to manage investigations into notifiable diseases and events, which involves information such as risk factors, signs and symptoms, exposures, encounters with the health care system, interventions and treatment plans.
4. Where does personal health information in PHIS come from?
There are multiple sources of personal health information in PHIS. PHIS receives information from other systems, including the following:
- Client Registry: The Department of Health Client Registry provides basic identification and demographic information about residents.
- Medicare: Medicare provides information about publicly-funded immunizations delivered by physicians and other health care providers outside of Public Health.
- Clinical Data Repository: The Department of Health Clinical Data Repository contributes laboratory results to PHIS, which are first obtained from regional Laboratory Information Systems.
- Drug Information System (DIS): The DIS is part of the Electronic Health Record (EHR). It displays, in real-time, your history of prescriptions filled in community pharmacies in New Brunswick.
- EECD Electronic Operational Data Store (EODS): EODS collects school-related information about students from schools within the provinces, which is then transferred to PHIS.
Personal health information is also inputted by Public Health users. For example, Public Health nurses directly record in PHIS the immunizations they deliver, as well as information about investigations into notifiable diseases and events.
5. Who has access to personal health information?
PHIS is only made available to users who require access to perform their job. Further, PHIS user roles are designed to provide access to the least amount of personal health information required for a user to perform their duties. PHIS users include the following:
- Public Health and community health nurses who deliver immunizations, monitor for adverse events following immunization, and help investigate and manage outbreaks of notifiable diseases and events;
- administrative staff who provide support to immunizers;
- epidemiologists who monitor, investigate and manage outbreaks of notifiable diseases and events;
- senior program advisors who plan, implement, monitor and evaluate the New Brunswick, immunization program, and assist in monitoring, investigating and managing outbreaks of notifiable diseases and events;
- medical officers of health who lead public health professionals on investigations and management of notifiable diseases and events, and other public health matters;
- Department of Public Safety health inspectors who participate in investigating and managing notifiable diseases and events; and
- system administrators who require access to personal health information in limited circumstances.
6. Where and how is information stored?
Personal health information is stored in the “Public Health Solution for Disease Surveillance and Management”, or “Panorama”, the central component of PHIS, which is developed and managed by IBM Canada. Panorama is hosted on secure servers located in Canada.
7. How is privacy protected with PHIS?
There are several measures in place to protect the privacy and security of personal health information in PHIS, including the following:
- databases containing personal health information are protected by administrative, physical and technical safeguards, including such things as restricted access to physical servers, firewalls, anti-virus software, intrusion detection systems and data encryption;
- user access to personal health information is only provided on a need-to-know basis, and limited to the least amount of information required for a user to perform their duties;
- PHIS users are required to agree to protect the privacy and security of personal health information in PHIS; and
- the actions of PHIS users are logged for the purposes of auditing to identify unauthorized access, use or disclosure of personal health information.
8. Who can I contact for further information about how my personal health information is used in PHIS?
For further privacy-related information about PHIS, please contact the Department of Health Corporate Privacy Office at Cpobpvp@gnb.ca