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Policies that advocate for the medical profession and Canadians


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Socially responsible investing

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13718
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2017-08-23
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Resolution
GC17-20
The Canadian Medical Association recommends that MD Financial Management Inc. provide information regarding socially responsible investing when marketing and advising on its investment portfolios.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2017-08-23
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Resolution
GC17-20
The Canadian Medical Association recommends that MD Financial Management Inc. provide information regarding socially responsible investing when marketing and advising on its investment portfolios.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association recommends that MD Financial Management Inc. provide information regarding socially responsible investing when marketing and advising on its investment portfolios.
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Principles for the protection of patient privacy

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13833
Date
2017-12-09
Topics
Health information and e-health
Ethics and medical professionalism
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Policy document
Date
2017-12-09
Replaces
PD11-03 Principles for the Protection of Patients' Personal Health Information
Topics
Health information and e-health
Ethics and medical professionalism
Text
Patients have a right to privacy and physicians have a duty of confidentiality arising from the patient-physician relationship to protect patient privacy. The right to privacy flows from the principle of respect for patient autonomy, based on the individual's right to conduct and control their lives as they choose.1 When approaching any ethical question around privacy, the principle of respect for patient autonomy must be balanced against other competing principles (e.g. beneficence, non-maleficence). The protection of privacy and the concomitant duty of confidentiality are essential to foster trust in the patient-physician-relationship, the delivery of good patient care and a positive patient care experience. Privacy protection is an important issue for Canadians,2 and research suggests that patients may withhold critical health information from their health care providers because of privacy concerns.3 Patients will be more willing to share complete and accurate information if they have a relationship of trust with their physician and are confident that their information will be protected.4 In today's ever-evolving technological environment and due to the shift away from the traditional (paternalistic) physician-patient relationship, patients, physicians and other public and private stakeholders are using and sharing personal health information in new and innovative ways. This raises new challenges for clinical practice and, crucially, how to navigate expanded uses of data via the use of new technologies and the requirements of patient privacy. Institutions, clinics, and physician-group practices may share responsibility with the physician for the protection of patient information. There is thus a tension between physician and institutional responsibilities to protect patient information, challenged by the rapidly changing use and adoption of new technologies. While this will continue to redefine expectations of privacy and confidentiality, there are several foundational principles that remain unchanged. SCOPE OF POLICY The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) Principles for the Protection of Patients' Personal Health Information aim to provide guidance on key ethical considerations pertinent to the protection of patient information in a way that takes into account a physician's (including medical learner) ethical, professional, and legal obligations. The Principles are not designed to serve as a tool for legislative compliance in a particular jurisdiction or to provide a standard of care. Physicians should be aware of privacy legislation in the jurisdiction in which they practice, the standards and expectations specified by their respective regulatory authorities (including Privacy Commissioners), publications and risk management education provided by the CMPA as well as policies and procedures of any given setting (e.g., a regional health authority or a hospital). SUBSTANTIVE PRINCIPLES THAT GUIDE THE OBLIGATIONS OF THE PHYSICIAN TO PROTECT PATIENT PRIVACY 1. Trust * Trust is the cornerstone of the patient-physician relationship and plays a central role in providing the highest standard of care. * Physicians and their patients build relationships of trust that enable open and honest dialogue and foster patients' willingness to share deeply personal information (often) in conditions of vulnerability. * Physicians can cultivate and maintain patient trust by, unless the consent of the patient has been obtained to do otherwise, collecting health information only to benefit the patient, by sharing information only for that purpose, and by keeping patient information confidential; patient trust has been found to be the most powerful determinant of the level of control patients want over their medical records.5 * To maintain trust, physicians must consider the duty to care and the duty not to harm the patient in evaluating privacy requirements. * The extent to which a patient expects (and may tolerate a loss of) privacy and confidentiality is culturally and individually relative.6 2. Confidentiality * Physicians owe a duty of confidentiality to their patients; there is both an ethical (respect for autonomy) and a legal basis imposed by privacy legislation) for this duty. * The duty to maintain patient confidentiality, like trust, is fundamental to the therapeutic nature of the patient-physician relationship; it creates conditions that allow patients to openly and confidently share complete health information, resulting in a stronger physician-patient relationship and better delivery of care.7 * The duty to maintain patient confidentiality means that physicians do not share the health information with anyone outside of the patient's circle of care, unless authorized to do so by the patient.1,8 There are varying interpretations of what constitutes the patient's circle of care; this depends on the facts of the situation and the jurisdiction.9 * Privacy requirements raise complex issues in learning environments and quality improvement initiatives. It is desirable that any of the patient's physicians who will have ongoing care interactions with the patient can remain included in information-sharing about the patient. * Shared electronic health records present challenges to confidentiality. For example, patients may wish to limit some aspects of their record to only some providers within their circle of care.10 * In practice, respecting privacy and the duty of confidentiality govern the physician's role as data steward, responsible for controlling the extent to which information about the person is protected, used or disclosed.11 A central rule to balancing a patient's right to privacy and the duty of confidentiality is the "minimum necessary" use and disclosure of personal health information, whereby a data steward should use or disclose only the minimum amount of information necessary to fulfil the intended purpose. In some circumstances, de-identifying or aggregating personal health information before use or disclosure can minimize the amount of information disclosed.12 * The duty to maintain patient confidentiality is not absolute and is subject to exceptions in limited circumstances,13 i.e., when required or permitted by law to disclose information (see below in Data Stewardship: Collection, use and disclosure of personal health information). 3. Consent * Patient consent is an important mechanism for respecting patient autonomy; obtaining voluntary and informed consent to share patient information is fundamental to the protection of privacy and the duty of confidentiality. * Physicians are generally required to obtain informed consent from the patient before they can disclose the patient's personal health information. Consent is only informed if there is disclosure of matters that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would want to know, including 1) to whom the patient information will be disclosed, 2) whether it could be disclosed to other third parties, and 3) the purpose for which it could be used or disclosed. * While informed consent is required as a general rule, physicians may infer that they have the patient's implied consent to collect, use, disclose and access personal health information 1) for the purpose of providing or assisting in providing care (i.e., share only the necessary information with those involved within the patient's circle of care); and 2) to store personal health information in a medical record (i.e., paper, electronic, or hospital-based). Physicians will want to consider if it is appropriate in the circumstances to advise the patient when a disclosure has been made. * When the patient is a minor, the physician must consider whether it is the parent or the child who determines the use and disclosure of the minor's personal health information. A young person who is deemed to understand fully the implications of a decision regarding proposed collection, use or disclosure of personal health information is generally deemed to have control over their personal health information with respect to the decision. * Where the patient is not capable to provide the required consent (e.g. is deemed to be incompetent), physicians must seek consent from the patient's substitute decision-maker. 4. Physician as data steward * As data stewards, physicians have the responsibility to understand their role in protecting patient privacy and appropriate access to patient information. * The information contained in the medical record belongs to the patient who has a general right of access to their personal health information, and the right to control the use and further disclosure and to the continued confidentiality of that information. * A data steward (e.g., physician, institution or clinic) holds the physical medical record in trust for the care and benefit of the patient.14 * Physicians should provide their patients access to their medical record, if requested.15 (See below in Data Stewardship: Access to personal information). * Physicians ought to have appropriate access to personal health information and have the ability to provide their patients with access to their medical record. Appropriate access should be interpreted to include access for patient follow up (as part of the duty to care) and review for the purpose of improving patient care. * Physicians should consider consulting available resources to assist them in fulfilling their duties as data stewards. PROCEDURAL PRINCIPLES THAT GUIDE THE APPLICATION OF PHYSICIAN OBLIGATIONS Physicians must manage personal health information in compliance with relevant legislation that establishes rules governing the access, collection, use, disclosure, and retention of personal health information, provincial privacy laws, and professional expectations and regulations specified by their respective regulatory authorities. 1. Data Stewardship: Access to personal information * Patients have a right of reasonable access to the personal health information in their medical record (i.e., paper, electronic, or hospital-based) under the control or in the custody of a physician, institution, or clinic. * In exceptional situations, physicians can refuse to release the information in the patient's medical record. 2. Data Stewardship: Collection, use and disclosure of personal health information * There are circumstances where there are required (e.g., monitoring of claims for payment, subpoenas) and permitted disclosures of personal health information without patient consent (e.g., where the maintenance of confidentiality would result in a significant risk of substantial harm to the patient or to others). * Security safeguards must be in place to protect personal health information in order to ensure that only authorized collection, use, disclosure or access occurs. * Physicians play an important role in educating patients about possible consensual and non-consensual uses and disclosures that may be made with their personal health information, including secondary uses of data for, e.g., epidemiological studies, research, education, and quality assurance, that may or may not be used with explicit consent. 3. Data Stewardship: Retention of personal health information * Personal health information should be retained for the period required by any applicable legislation and as specified by their respective regulatory authorities. It may be necessary to maintain personal health information beyond the applicable period where there is a pending or anticipated legal proceeding related to the care provided to the patient. * Likewise, physicians should transfer and dispose of personal health information in compliance with any applicable legislation and professional expectations outlined by their respective regulatory authorities. * Physicians are encouraged to seek technical assistance and advice on the secure transfer, disposal, and/or selling of electronic records.15 4. Data Stewardship: Use of technology * Physicians should obtain patient consent to use electronic means and/or devices for patient care (e.g., sending digital photographs) and for communicating patient information (e.g., the use of email). To obtain informed consent, physicians should explain to patients that there are necessary benefits and risks in using technologies in clinical contexts. The CMPA has provided a written consent form to that effect that can be included in the patient's medical record. * As a general practice, physicians are encouraged to make use of technological innovations and must evaluate whether the technology is appropriate for patient care and has reasonable safeguards to protect patient privacy. Approved by the CMA Board of Directors December 2017 See also Background to CMA Policy Principles for the Protection of Patient Privacy REFERENCES 1 Martin JF. Privacy and confidentiality. In: ten Have H, Gordijn B (Eds). Handbook of global bioethics. New York: Springer, Dordrecht; 2014. p.119-37. 2 Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Canadians and privacy final report. Gatineau: Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada; 2009. Available: https://www.priv.gc.ca/information/por-rop/2009/ekos_2009_01_e.asp (accessed 2017 Nov 17). 3 Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA). Privacy and a wired world - Protecting patient health information. Ottawa: CMPA; 2011 Dec. Available: https://www.cmpa-acpm.ca/en/advice-publications/browse-articles/2011/privacy-and-a-wired-world-protecting-patient-health-information (accessed 2017 Nov 17). 4 Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC). Duty of confidentiality. Ottawa: RCPSC; 2017. Available: http://www.royalcollege.ca/rcsite/bioethics/cases/section-3/duty-confidentiality-e (accessed 2017 Dec 15). 5 Damschroder LJ, Pritts JL, Neblo MA, Kalarickal RJ, Creswell JW, Hayward RA. Patients, privacy and trust: patients' willingness to allow researchers to access their medical records. Soc Sci Med 2007;64:223-35. 6 Campbell JI, Eyal N, Musiimenta A, Haberer JE. Ethical questions in medical electronic adherence monitoring. J Gen Intern Med 2016;31:338-42. Available: https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2Fs11606-015-3502-4.pdf (accessed 2017 Nov 17). 7 Crook MA. The risks of absolute medical confidentiality. Sci Eng Ethics 2013;19:107-22. 8 Cohen I, Hoffman A, Sage W (Eds). The Oxford Handbook of U.S. Health Law. New York: Oxford University Press; 2015. 9 Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA). The voice of professionalism within the system of care. Ottawa: CMPA; 2012 Oct. Available: https://www.cmpa-acpm.ca/en/advice-publications/browse-articles/2012/the-voice-of-professionalism-within-the-system-of-care (accessed 2017 Nov 17). 10 Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA). Did you know? Patients can restrict access to their health information. Ottawa: CMPA; 2017 Nov. Available: https://www.cmpa-acpm.ca/en/advice-publications/browse-articles/2017/did-you-know-patients-can-restrict-access-to-their-health-information (accessed 2017 Nov 17). 11 Francis JG, Francis LP. Privacy, confidentiality, and justice. J Soc Philos 2014;45:408-31. 12 Burkle CM, Cascino GD. Medicine and the media: balancing the public's right to know with the privacy of the patient. Mayo Clin Proc 2011;86:1192-6. 13 Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA). When to disclose confidential information. Ottawa: CMPA; 2015 Mar. Available: https://www.cmpa-acpm.ca/en/advice-publications/browse-articles/2015/when-to-disclose-confidential-information (accessed 2017 Nov 17). 14 Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA). Releasing a patient's personal health information: What are the obligations of the physician? Ottawa: CMPA; 2012 Oct. Available: https://www.cmpa-acpm.ca/en/advice-publications/browse-articles/2012/releasing-a-patient-s-personal-health-information-what-are-the-obligations-of-the-physician (accessed 2017 Nov 17). 15 Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA). Protecting patient health information in electronic records. Ottawa: CMPA; 2013 Oct. Available: https://www.cmpa-acpm.ca/en/advice-publications/browse-articles/2013/protecting-patient-health-information-in-electronic-records (accessed 2017 Nov 17). (c) 2017 Canadian Medical Association. You may, for your non-commercial use, reproduce, in whole or in part and in any form or manner, unlimited copies of CMA Policy Statements provided that credit is given to Canadian Medical Association. BACKGROUND TO CMA POLICY PRINCIPLES FOR THE PROTECTION OF PATIENT PRIVACY See also CMA Policy on Principles for the Protection of Patient Privacy Context The advent of Electronic Medical Records, the rapid spread of mobile health apps, and the increasing use of social media within the health care community, have each created new challenges to maintaining a duty of confidentiality within the physician-patient relationship. These technologies present both opportunities and challenges with respect to medical professionalism.1 The permeation of these types of interactions into everyday life now places physicians in new situations that some find difficult to navigate.2 These challenges will only increase in the coming years, as the use of online technologies in health care is continuously growing.3 Canada is only in the early stages of managing the emerging issues of technology-induced errors that compromise privacy in the health care setting.4 Therefore, this paper will briefly discuss the importance of protecting privacy, followed by an overview of the main challenges to maintaining privacy as the physician-patient relationship evolves at the backdrop of emerging technologies. Privacy and Confidentiality The overlapping, but not identical, principles of the protection of privacy and the duty of confidentiality are essential to the physician-patient relationship. These principles not only foster trust, but also the delivery of effective and lasting care. Rooted in the Hippocratic Oath, the modern-day right to privacy flows from the principle of autonomy, which attributes to individuals the right to conduct and control their lives as they choose.5 Privacy protection is an important issue to Canadians,6 with research suggesting that patients may even withhold critical health information because of privacy concerns.7 Health care professionals are bound by legal and ethical standards to maintain privacy and confidentiality of patient information.8 Physicians must therefore be aware of the implications of privacy legislation specific to their jurisdiction.7 The duty to protect patient privacy is important to uphold, as health information can potentially be identifiable and sensitive; the confidentiality of this information must therefore be protected to ensure that patient privacy is not breached. 9 While the traditional, and largely obsolete, models of the physician-patient relationship involve a unidirectional flow of information, the ease at which patients can now access medical information through the Internet, and the use of social media within the health care community, have reinterpreted how information is communicated from physician to patient, and vice versa.10 We must therefore re-define expectations of privacy and confidentiality, first by distinguishing one from the other. The terms "privacy" and "confidentiality" are often used interchangeably by both researchers and clinicians. Several bioethics discussions on the distinction between these terms places confidentiality under the umbrella of privacy.11 While confidentiality involves the information itself, which is disclosed or not, privacy is about the impact of that disclosure on the person.9 Privacy seems to be more intimately linked to the individual, focusing on the circumstances under which the information is used.12-13 Confidentiality, on the other hand, is a duty that health professionals have towards their patients to not share the information exchanged during their encounter, unless authorized by the patient.5,12 In practice, the duty of confidentiality governs the physician's role as data stewards, responsible for controlling the extent to which information about the person is protected, used or disclosed.14 As one paper describes, "privacy is invaded, confidentiality is breached."13 From a patient perspective, it is important to respect and protect privacy because it allows individuals time and space to share their concerns without feeling judged or misunderstood,11 resulting in a stronger physician-patient relationship and better delivery of care. However, from a research perspective, a fine balance must be struck between using accurate information while still upholding the privacy rights of individuals.11 As such, the argument for absolute confidentiality puts a near impossible burden on research clinicians.11 Moreover, from a public safety perspective, a physician may be morally and legally required to break confidentiality in order to protect both the patient and others who may be involved. The challenge is to balance the traditional goal of confidentiality - to protect patient privacy and interest - with that of third parties and public health.5 Therefore, a central rule to balancing confidentiality with a patients' right to privacy is the "minimum necessary" use and disclosure of personal health information, whereby a data steward should use or disclose only the minimum amount of information necessary to fulfil the intended purpose.8 It is equally important to recognize that the extent to which a patient may tolerate a loss of privacy is culturally and individually relative.15 Health care providers have a legal and ethical obligation to keep patient health information private, sharing it only with the authorization of the patient.16 Informed consent, therefore, appears to be a fundamental requirement to upholding confidentiality and patient privacy rights. Issues While emerging privacy issues touch many areas of practice, this section will emphasize three of the most prominent issues in recent literature: access and use of information, electronic medical and health records and, online communication and social media. 1. Technological change and institutional data stewardship In today's ever-evolving technological environment, including the emergence of shared electronic health records, online communication, social media, mobile applications, and big data, physicians, patients and other public and private stakeholders are using and sharing personal health information in new and innovative ways. The traditional (paternalistic) model of the physician-patient relationship involved a bidirectional flow of information. However, the ease at which patients can now access medical information from alternative sources via the Internet, and the use of social media within the health care community, has redefined how information is communicated from physician to patient, and vice versa.10 This raises new challenges for clinical practice, specifically how to navigate expanded access of data via the use of new technologies and the requirements of patient privacy by effectively managing security concerns. In many situations, the physician may not be the sole or primary custodian of (i.e., control access to) the patient's records once the health information is collected. Institutions, clinics, and physician-group practices may also have responsibility for patient information and therefore play an important role in ensuring it is protected. There is thus a grey area between physician and institutional responsibilities to protect patient information, challenged by the rapidly changing use and adoption of new technologies, such as electronic health and medical records. While this will continue to redefine expectations of privacy and confidentiality, there are several foundational principles that remain unchanged. 2. Electronic medical and health records Medical records are compiled primarily to assist physicians and other health care providers in treating patients.16 Yet, they are particularly vulnerable to privacy breaches when this information is exposed to secondary uses, including epidemiological studies, research, education and quality assurance. As contemporary information management and stewardship have had to evolve in response to emerging technology, the parameters of the "medical record" have grown increasingly ambiguous.17 With the proliferation of a wide variety of new health information technology (including electronic health and medical records), concerns about quality and safety have been raised.4 There is evidence that if such technology is not designed, implemented and maintained effectively, it may result in unintended consequences, including technology-induced errors and breaches of patient privacy.4 Reports involving Canada Health Infoway have even pointed to health information technology as a tool that may sometimes reduce rather than enhance patient safety, most often due to human factors. 4 As a result, recommendations have been made to develop a reporting system that would allow health professionals to anonymously report human errors resulting from the use of health information technology - a challenge in itself, as the distinction between human and technological error is often blurred.4 In Canada, a number of efforts have been undertaken by several organizations, including Health Canada and Canada's Health Informatics Organization.4 Yet, services aimed at improving health information technology safety, from a national level, remain poor.4 As a result, organizations like Canada Health Infoway have promoted the need for collaborative efforts to improve health information technology safety standards in Canada, 4 so to ensure that the current and future uses of "medical record" data are accurate and respectful of patient privacy. 3. Access and use of personal health information for research The courts have long established that health information belongs to the patient.18 As a result, privacy ownership refers to the belief that patients own their private information as well as the right to control access to this information.19 As in other jurisdictions, the overarching challenge in Canada is to strike a balance between enabling access to health and health-related data for research while still respecting Canadians' right to privacy and control over the confidentiality of their information.20 The integrity of healthcare information is fundamental, given that it is the basis on which treatment decisions are made both in research and in clinic. 9 There are three principles upon which information security is based: 9 1) only authorized people have access to confidential information; 2) information must be accurate and consistent, may only be modified by authorized people in ways that are appropriate; 3) information must be accessible by authorized users when needed. Canadian research ethics have demonstrated that beneficial work can be done while maintaining confidentiality to sensitive personal health information.21 Yet, the challenge remains to create a uniform system for accessing data and performing data-based research due to 1) the lack of consistency and clarity in Canada's ethical and legal framework and, 2) varied interpretations of key terms and issues across the country.21 For example, the term "non-identifiable data" remains ambiguous across provinces and is subject to interpretation by data custodians, who may consider their legal duty to protect privacy as precluding access to data.21 This lack of legal clarity has contributed to varied cautious and conservative interpretations of data access legislation.21 National uniform guidelines on the appropriate access, disclosure and use of personal health data would allow data stewards to advance their research while respecting their patients' right to privacy. 4. Online communication with patients and social media Social media and online communication is pervasive in Canadian society; from Facebook to Twitter, social media has changed the way people interact and disseminate information.21 There is currently widespread discussion among health care professionals and academics regarding the role that social media and online communication should play in the physician-patient relationship.22 A growing number of physicians have embraced the opportunities of interconnectivity that social media affords, implementing their own privacy procedures to reflect this new type of data collection, use and storage.7 While evidence has been lacking on whether the use of social media does improve patient outcomes,22 there is no denying that patients are seeking health care information from online platforms, including social media.22 This type of communication poses a unique set of opportunities and challenges for physicians: while the use of social media could increase physician reach and patient engagement, it can also blur boundaries between one's personal and professional life.22 Although patient-physician online communication is currently limited, physicians still feel that they are encountering an ethical dilemma, especially when they find themselves in boundary crossing situations, like a friend request from a patient.2 Physicians are particularly concerned that, through online communication, they may be exposed to medico-legal and disciplinary issues, especially with respect to patient privacy.2 Given different studies have suggested that unprofessional uses of social media are not uncommon,23 physicians who choose to communicate with patients online or through social media must remember that they are still governed by the same ethical and professional standards that remain paramount.22 As technology continues to evolve, so too will the traditional parameters of the patient-physician relationship. The physician's ethical and professional obligation to protect patient privacy, however, must remain paramount at the backdrop of technology use. Simply banning social media and online communication would neither eliminate risk, nor benefit patient care outcomes. 24 Instead, institutions should establish stringent policies that outline how to prevent or minimize the effects of privacy breaches associated with social media and online communication.25 This should also include a tracking mechanism to help balance the obligation to privacy with evolving technology.25 December 2017 See also CMA Policy on Principles for the Protection of Patient Privacy REFERENCES 1 Farnan JM, Snyder Sulmasy L, Worster BK, Chaudhry HJ, Rhyne JA, Arora VM. Online medical professionalism: patient and public relationships: policy statement from the American College of Physicians and the Federation of State Medical Boards. Ann Intern Med 2013;158(8):620-627. 2 Brown J, Ryan C. How doctors view and use social media: a national survey. J Med Internet Res 2014;16:e267. Available: https://doi.org/10.2196/jmir.3589 (accessed 2017 Nov 17). 3 Lambert KM, Barry P, Stokes G. Risk management and legal issues with the use of social media in the healthcare setting. J Healthc Risk Manag 2012;31(4):41-47. 4 Kushniruk AW, Bates DW, Bainbridge M, Househ MS, Borycki EM. National efforts to improve health information system safety in Canada, the United States of America and England. Int J Med Inform 2013;82(5):e149-160. 5 Martin JF. Privacy and confidentiality. In: ten Have H, Gordijn B (Eds). Handbook of global bioethics. New York: Springer, Dordrecht; 2014. p.120-1. 6 Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Canadians and privacy final report. Gatineau: Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada; 2009. Available: https://www.priv.gc.ca/information/por-rop/2009/ekos_2009_01_e.asp (accessed 2017 Nov 17). 7 Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA). Privacy and a wired world - Protecting patient health information. Ottawa: CMPA; 2011 Dec. Available: https://www.cmpa-acpm.ca/en/advice-publications/browse-articles/2011/privacy-and-a-wired-world-protecting-patient-health-information (accessed 2017 Nov 17). 8 Burkle CM, Cascino GD. Medicine and the media: balancing the public's right to know with the privacy of the patient. Mayo Clin Proc 2011;86:1192-6. 9 Williams PA. Information security governance: a risk assessment approach to health information systems protection. Stud Health Techol Inform 2013;193:186-206. 10 Borza LR, Gavrilovici C, Stockman R. Ethical models of physician-patient relationship revisited with regard to patient autonomy, values and patient education. Rev Med Chir Soc Med Nat Iasi 2015;119(2):496-501. 11 Crook MA. The risks of absolute medical confidentiality. Sci Eng Ethics 2013;19(1):107-122. 12 Cohen I, Hoffman A, Sage W (Eds). The Oxford handbook of U.S. health law. New York: Oxford University Press; 2015. 13 Francis L. Privacy and confidentiality: the importance of context. The Monist; 91(1);2008:52-67. 14 Francis JG, Francis LP. Privacy, confidentiality, and justice. J Soc Philos 2014;45:408-31. 15 Campbell JI, Eyal N, Musiimenta A, Haberer JE. Ethical questions in medical electronic adherence monitoring. J Gen Intern Med 2016;31:338-42. Available: https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2Fs11606-015-3502-4.pdf (accessed 2017 Nov 17). 16 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Medical record confidentiality, access and disclosure. Ottawa: CMA; 2000. Available: https://www.cma.ca/Assets/assets-library/document/en/advocacy/policy-research/CMA_Policy_The_medical_record_confidentiality_access_and_disclosure_Update_2000_PD00-06-e.pdf (accessed 2017 Oct 30). 17 Fenton SH, Manion F, Hsieh K, Harris M. Informed Consent: Does anyone really understand what is contained in the medical record? Appl Clin Inform 2015;6(3):466-477. 18 Canada. Supreme Court. McInerney v MacDonald. Dom Law Rep. 1992 Jun 11;93:415-31. 19 Petronio S, Dicorcia MJ, Duggan A. Navigating ethics of physician-patient confidentiality: a communication privacy management analysis. Perm J 2012;16(4):41-45. 20 Council of Canadian Academies (CCA). Accessing health and health-related data in Canada. Ottawa: The Expert Panel on Timely Access to Health and Social Data for Health Research and Health System Innovation, Council of Canadian Academies; 2015. Available: http://www.scienceadvice.ca/uploads/eng/assessments%20and%20publications%20and%20news%20releases/Health-data/HealthDataFullReportEn.pdf (accessed 2017 Nov 17). 21 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Social media and Canadian physician: Issues and rules of engagement. Ottawa: CMA; 2011. Available: https://www.cma.ca/Assets/assets-library/document/en/advocacy/CMA_Policy_Social_Media_Canadian_Physicians_Rules_Engagement_PD12-03-e.pdf (accessed 2017 Oct 30). 22 Eysenbach G. Medicine 2.0: Social networking, collaboration, participation, apomediation, and openness J Med Internet Res 2008;10(3):e22. 23 Mayer MA, Leis A, Mayer A, Rodriguez-Gonzalez A. How medical doctors and students should use social media: A review of the main guidelines for proposing practical recommendations. Stud Health Technol Info 2012;180:853-857. 24 Moses RE, McNeese LG, Feld LD, Feld AD. Social media in the health-care setting: Benefits but also a minefield of compliance and other legal issues. Am J Gastroenterol 2014;109(8):1128-1132. 25 Yang YT, Silverman RD. Mobile health applications: The patchwork of legal and liability issues suggests strategies to improve oversight. Health Aff (Millwood) 2014;33(2):222-227.
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A medical industry perspective – supporting small business, the economic engine of Canada

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13731
Date
2017-10-02
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2017-10-02
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Text
The changes announced on July 18, 2017, are the most significant change to the private corporation tax structure in 45 years and will have a negative impact on doctors and also convenience store operators, electrical contractors and family farmers. In short, these proposals will negatively affect all small business owners, most of whom are squarely in the middle class and are the engine of the Canadian economy. We believe a 75-day consultation is inadequate to assess the scope of these changes and the ramifications for not only our members but also the 1.1 million other small business operators as well as the impacts of the proposals on Canada's prospects for future economic growth. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) strongly urges the federal government to: 1) suspend the current proposals; 2) conduct a comprehensive review of these proposals to ensure that legislation can meet policy objectives without significant unintended consequences; and 3) engage all Canadians in a comprehensive review of the tax system considering unique aspects of all sectors, including safety net provisions. Economic considerations of the tax proposals: Small business in Canada Most Canadian businesses are small. As of December 2015, there were 1.17 million employer businesses in the Canadian economy. Of these, 1.14 million (97.9%) were small-sized businesses, 21,415 (1.8%) were medium-sized businesses and 2,933 (0.3%) were large-sized businesses. Small- and medium-sized enterprise s (SMEs) are critical contributors to the Canadian economy. They generate the majority of Canadian jobs. Across the country, an estimated 10.6 million people (66.8% of the labour force) work in small-sized businesses and another 3.3 million (20.4%) are employed in medium-sized businesses. Only 2.0 million (12.8%) work in large-sized businesses. In addition to generating jobs, SMEs make a significant contribution to gross domestic product (GDP). Notably, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees will contribute on average 30% to national GDP. SMEs also make sizable contributions to research and development. Between 2011 and 2013, SMEs accounted for 27% of the research and development expenditures in this country. Medical industry Physicians' offices are an important component of the Canadian economy, employing people and supporting suppliers in their communities. The majority of physicians (66% or 54,000) own and operate a private corporation. The direct GDP contribution produced by physicians' offices in Canada in 2016 was $22.3 billion. They paid $6.2 billion in wages and salaries, employed 137,000 people and contributed $643 million in tax revenues to governments. Including the supply chain and induced effects of this economic activity, the total GDP supported by the economic footprint of physicians' offices was $33.4 billion and the total number of jobs supported was 250,000. Physicians' medical practices, in addition to providing essential health care services to Canadians, also provide a noticeable contribution to Canada's economy. The total economic footprint of physicians' practices in 2016 - directly, through their supply chain and through induced effects - accounted for 1.6% of Canada's total GDP in 2016. Making Canada an attractive place to practise medicine Physicians and small business owners across the country believe that the proposals are complex and will ultimately lead to unintended consequences that will affect all Canadians. With so many underserviced regions of Canada and 5.3 million orphan patients, it behooves government to establish conditions that facilitate recruitment and retention of highly skilled professionals, such as physicians. Physicians are more mobile than many other small business owners. Between 2014 and 2015, for instance, approximately 740 physicians (about 1% of all physicians) moved from one province or territory to another. In the CMA's recent member survey, 22% of practising physicians stated they would consider relocating their practice to another country as a result of the proposed federal tax changes. Of the medical residents who participated in the survey, 39% would consider moving their practice to another country if the proposed federal tax changes are implemented. The experience of the 1990s provides evidence that this is a real possibility. In 1992, health ministers agreed to reduce medical school enrolment, and shortly afterward provincial governments began to put restrictions in place, such as a two-year moratorium on new billing numbers in Ontario for physicians who had not completed their undergraduate or postgraduate training there. These measures sent a clear message that doctors were not welcome in Canada and it was no surprise that they left in large numbers. From 1995 to 1997 Canada experienced an annual average net loss of 454 physicians to migration, the equivalent of four medical school classes. The United States continues to face a shortage of physicians, and it may be an attractive alternative for Canadian physicians to practise. Projections released earlier this year for the American Association of Medical Colleges indicate that the United States will have a shortage of between 40,800 and 104,900 physicians by 2030. The path to becoming a physician is a long one, which includes 10 or more years of postsecondary education. As a result, physicians start their careers later than other workers. Average student debt ranges from $160,000 to $180,000. This represents a large personal investment of time and money. We want to ensure that Canada establishes the public policy conditions necessary to retain and attract the next generation of physicians. Thriving medical practices are the best medicine for patients Public policy should strive to promote economic growth, innovation and quality of life for all Canadians. Thriving medical practices are a key ingredient in ensuring that Canadians have access to medical care when and where they need it. Any changes to the existing tax regimen can have the unintended consequences of forcing owners of medical practices to curtail their operations, reduce availability of care and stifle expansions of much-needed medical services. The CMA asked physicians whether they would consider reducing the number of hours they worked if the government eliminated any or all of the benefits of incorporation. Over half of the practising physicians who responded to the survey (54%) indicated they would consider reducing their number of hours worked, and 24% indicated they would consider retirement. In addition, 31% of the respondents stated they would consider closing their practice and moving to another practice setting (such as a hospital-based or salaried position). Of particular note, 64% of the medical residents who responded to the survey indicated that they would avoid independent practice. If fewer physicians opt to stay in or enter into independent practice there could be important implications for physician supply and patient accessibility. This may be particularly important in rural and remote regions, where independent practice is the most common means for delivery of physician services. In some rural and remote communities across Canada, there is already a shortage of physicians. According to Statistics Canada, about 19% of the Canadian population lives in rural and remote communities, but only about 14% of family physicians and 2% of specialists practise in such communities. The ratio of physicians to patients is also much lower in rural than in urban Canada (0.8 versus 2.1 per 1,000 in 2013). Some of the challenges in recruiting and retaining physicians to rural and especially to remote communities include the reality that physicians in these regions often have to work long hours, have a high level of on-call responsibilities and need additional competencies to meet their community's needs. Unlike most physicians working in urban environments, they may also experience insufficient backup or a total absence of backup from other physicians, nurses and complementary services. There are typically fewer professional education opportunities in rural and remote communities. Finally, physicians sometimes find it difficult to travel long distances to visit their families in urban regions or to convince their spouses and children to relocate from urban to rural and remote communities because of limited job prospects and educational opportunities for their families. Promoting gender equality in small- and medium-sized businesses and in medical practices The current federal government has advanced a feminist agenda with a view to ensuring that all public policy aligns with and supports gender equality. It is therefore perplexing to see the tax proposals being considered, as these may further deter women from entering the medical profession. It is worth noting that female physicians now account for 40% of all Canadian physicians and they represent 60% of physicians under the age of 35. This statistic represents a significant achievement in promoting gender equality in the profession. While the potential indirect effects of the federal tax proposals apply to all physicians regardless of gender, female physicians will likely see an incrementally larger decrease in income at all career stages and particularly as they start a family. This is coupled with the fact that there are already fewer female physicians over the age of 50. Many female physicians may choose to stay at home if the current financial and entrepreneurial incentives are no longer available. In addition to the direct impact of the proposed tax measures on female physicians, any practice consolidations or closures resulting from these measures will also impact women currently employed in physician practices, including nurses and administrative support staff. This is significant for occupations such as medical administrative assistants and other health services support staff; 98% and 80% of total employees in these occupations are women, respectively. Inspiring innovation as the cornerstone of Canada's future A significant portion of medical research in Canada is funded by physician donations of cash and unpaid physician labour. This is especially true for physicians working in academic health science centres (AHSCs). AHSCs are vital to ensuring that leading-edge medical research continues in Canada. Since most AHSCs are structured as partnerships of incorporated physicians, they will also be affected by the federal tax proposals, and donations to fund medical research will be compromised as physicians make financial decisions to reduce their spending to make up for their increased tax burden. This is significant, as the CMA estimates that physicians provide $340 million from their gross earnings to fund medical research and teaching in AHSCs. Furthermore, if physicians are facing a reduction in after-tax income from their practices, they will likely favour paid labour over unpaid labour to offset the reduction, which would result in fewer physician hours spent on medical research. There would be little financial incentive for physicians to continue with medical research, which would significantly impede medical innovation in Canada. Technical considerations of the proposals: In reviewing the specifics of the proposals, the CMA wishes to provide its perspective on several of the elements being considered, including fairness, complexity, passive income of a small business corporation, anti-avoidance rules and income splitting. Fairness The tax rules for private corporations are available to everyone should they wish to start and run their own business. They have been supported and even promoted by various governments to encourage entrepreneurship and those who are willing to take the risk of starting up a small business, entering independent practice or taking over the family business. Seeking to compare a salaried employee to someone who works through a private corporation where the corporation earns an equivalent amount of income fails to take into account all the factors necessary to operate a successful business through a corporate structure. For example, private corporations reinvest in the business and save funds to weather adverse economic events and to offset the lack of employment provisions and benefits. Physicians start their medical practice with significant debt and enter their career in their 30s. Private corporations in different sectors face their own unique set of challenges and the existing policies provide certainty that enables them to make plans. The CMA is aware that in 2011 an Employment Insurance (EI) program was established for self-employed individuals whereby they could register and pay for benefits including maternity and parental leave. We understand that there has been low uptake; we suspect that is because many self-employed people cannot take a full year off for maternity/parental leave and therefore do not receive the full value of what they put into the program. Other considerations include the fact that the program is not topped up by an employer, the program does not factor in expenses related to replacement costs, and there is loss of flexibility to cover lifestyle costs. Although well-intentioned, it seems that the enhancements to the EI program may not address the realities of running a business (regardless of incorporation) and that is why we need a more comprehensive review of the tax system that considers unique sector conditions and safety net provisions. Corporations are legitimate business vehicles that facilitate compliance and administration, and they have been sanctioned and encouraged by successive governments for decades. Changing the rules now will be highly destabilizing for small business owners who have chosen to organize their affairs in this way, many of whom also do not have the resources to adjust to these changes. In some cases, provisions for physician incorporation have been part of a negotiated settlement with provincial governments. The proposed changes will drive up medical costs, increase pressure on provincial and territorial governments and worsen fee-schedule negotiations between physicians and their provincial and territorial governments, causing yet more unnecessary disruption. The use of corporations has to a certain extent kept the underground economy at bay because of mandatory reporting requirements and registration both for income tax and GST/HST purposes and for corporate governance. Complexity The Canadian tax system and in particular the rules governing both big and small corporations are complex, and successive governments have strived to simplify them over time. The proposed tax changes have a level of complexity that is counter to what the present government has been promoting by eliminating boutique tax provisions. The proposals create a bigger disparity between small business corporations eligible for the small business deduction and small public corporations that provide many of the same benefits to family shareholders. Passive investments Passive income is already taxed at higher levels than active business income. Working capital is just as necessary in a small business corporation as it is in a public corporation. Investing passively in a private corporation has been a legitimate practice for many generations of Canadian business owners. The method of taxing passive income has been in effect since 1972. Investing passively within a corporation accommodates business owners who assume risk and responsibility not otherwise assumed by employees. A few important accommodations are noted below: * Investing passively provides a business owner with efficient access to capital so that opportunities can be seized, creating growth and employment for our economy. * Business owners are more likely to accept the risk associated with making investments if they have access to more capital. * Investing passively allows a business owner to manage risks assumed when one goes into business for oneself. These risks are not otherwise assumed by employees. * Investing passively allows a business owner to diversify risk by investing in assets that are very different than private corporation shares. * Investing passively allows a business owner to provide for retirement and unforeseen circumstances that may need to be self-funded. Physicians, like other small business owners, retain capital in their corporations to weather the financial ups and downs that are inherent in self-employment. Because physicians do not have employer-sponsored pension plans or health, disability or maternity benefits or statutory vacation leave, they rely on retained earnings and make passive investments to build up the capital to fund these eventualities. Similar to other businesses, medical practices have to respond to the ups and downs of the business cycle - in the medical practice context, provincial and territorial governments will implement expenditure caps and cuts that will affect the medical practice's bottom line. Fair, simple and efficient tax system As noted by CPA Canada, fairness in our tax system is an essential principle and it is doubtful that the recent proposals will improve this. Investing passively in a private corporation has in some cases been a mechanism available to business owners of all sizes since 1972. It will be important to consider the fact that many small business owners have legitimately organized their affairs by investing passively in their corporation and have not contributed to registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs), tax free savings accounts (TFSAs) and registered education savings plans (RESPs). Fundamentally changing the tax system will in some cases require physicians to: * work for more years to save for retirement with after tax dollars; * evaluate whether Canada's tax system is competitive with that of other economies; and * alter practice decisions, such as opting to retire completely versus easing into retirement or reducing hours of work in favour of other career pursuits. Applying a 50% permanent income tax rate in the corporation to passive income assumes that all small business owners are high-rate taxpayers. This is not the case, and this assumption would inadvertently punish many small business owners who are not subject to the highest rates of income tax. In some cases, applying a high rate of personal income tax to corporate income that has already been subject to tax at 50% will result in a combined income tax rate of approximately 71%. Canada's tax system is already complex and the proposed methods of accounting for passive income will in all cases add further complexity, reducing taxpayer compliance. Tracking and pooling sources of income to account for investments will be both time consuming and costly. There will need to be simple mechanisms for both grandfathered investments and those impacted by the new rules. Lastly, making significant changes to legitimate tax structures that have been in use for 45 years requires careful consideration, material stakeholder involvement, carefully considered grandfathering provisions and the appropriate amount of time to plan and implement. The proposals concerning passive income in a private corporation represent a significant change in tax policy. If implemented as proposed by the government, the changes could act as a disincentive for those looking to invest in small business, decreasing job creation. Furthermore, the tax policy changes as proposed could make it difficult for Canada to attract, recruit and retain highly skilled professionals, which will significantly impact the quality and availability of health care in the short and long term. For consideration - prescribed allowable assets for passive investment A fair tax system accommodates taxpayers who assume different levels of risk and is flexible enough to allow taxpayers to manage various circumstances. From a policy perspective, there are many examples of accommodation or incentive, such as the lifetime capital gains exemption (LCGE) and the small business deduction (SBD), which accommodate a self-employed individual's realities when compared with an employee. In the CMA's view, passive income is already taxed at rates of almost 50% to discourage investing passively in a corporation, and when passive income is distributed to individual shareholders, investment income is appropriately taxed. Existing passive assets and any income or related capital gain thereon should not be impacted by any new system that is implemented. Regarding a transition, a taxpayer should have the ability to elect to have existing or substituted assets and the related income or capital gains taxed under the current regime resulting in no change. On a prospective basis, passive assets accumulated over and above a prescribed threshold could be subject to new investment income rules. The prescribed threshold would allow business owners to accumulate passive assets commensurate with the amount of risk they accept or assume. Alternatively, the prescribed threshold would allow a taxpayer to opt out of the onerous and costly rules that are not conducive to small business. Business owners have raised the concern that they need to retain capital in their corporations for valid business purposes. These include saving for economic downturns, future growth and contingencies such as an illness of the principal business owner. Allowing a prescribed amount of passive investments to be held by private corporations will permit them to save for these valid business reasons without facing excessive tax rates, while still meeting the government's policy objective of preventing individuals from using corporations to save beyond government tolerance. A prescribed threshold provides greater certainty for planning and ease of administration. These ideas are worth exploring but require time and the engagement of small businesses to ensure that the changes do not produce unintended consequences while meeting public policy objectives. Converting income to capital Anti-tax avoidance rules We are in support of targeted measures to curtail abuse. Non-arm's length manipulations of cost base to reduce or eliminate capital gains are not appropriate, and such abuses should be curtailed. Use of mechanisms to avoid double taxation such as the so-called pipeline strategy that has been accepted by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to avoid double taxation should be encouraged, not legislated against. Estate planning CRA has issued numerous favourable advanced income tax rulings with respect to pipeline planning. The proposed changes in ITA section 84.1 are especially troublesome for those nearing retirement and those who have planned for their final estate tax liability under the current income tax regime. For example, assume an owner of a private corporation dies in Ontario and the shares are not inherited by a spouse. If the private company shares have a fair market value of $2,000,000 with minimal adjusted cost base, the estate's final income tax liability will increase by approximately $360,000 if the fair market value of the private corporation must be realized as a dividend rather than as a capital gain, as contemplated by proposed subsection 84.1(2). In addition, there would be limited opportunities for retired or near-retirement business owners to acquire life insurance or otherwise reorganize their affairs. Lastly, the proposed changes would effectively require each estate to wind up the affairs of a private corporation within a very short period of time (12 months) to avoid double taxation. For consideration Subsection 164(6) of the Act should be extended to coincide with the graduated rate estate rules that were recently introduced. On this basis, an estate would have three years to properly wind up the affairs of a private company, realize a capital loss and carry it back to the terminal return of the shareholder to avoid paying income tax twice. Income sprinkling The practice of income sprinkling within the use of a professional corporation has been supported by judgments issued by the Supreme Court of Canada. It is also true that in some cases provincial governments have amended legislation governing professionals to allow a professional to introduce family members as shareholders of their professional corporations. Such amendments were made in the context of negotiating contracts for service deliverables and remuneration and in recognition of the family involvement in running a small business, such as a medical office in the case of physicians. Upon incorporation the entity that has been created in support of a specific business activity has nominal value. The corporation builds and expands through bank borrowing, expenditures and the sweat capital of spouses/partners. The value of that sweat capital is difficult to quantify but in many respects is no different than the sweat capital provided by unrelated entrepreneurs in developing a high technology idea into a working venture. The proposed changes could result in more stringent requirements for a family shareholder to demonstrate their contribution of capital or value to an entity than would be required of a non-family member shareholder. Spouses/partners are integral to the risk and development of a business enterprise that, as a family, they have an interest in: pension income splitting recognizes the family unit and similar considerations apply here. Tax policy reflected in the ITA has always permitted a certain level of income based on the personal amount and the dividend tax credit to be received without tax cost. In 2017 the amount was approximately $32,000.00. There is no abuse in using those provisions just as there is no abuse in pension income splitting to share the tax obligation within a family. Subjectivity of reasonability criteria Regarding the application of tax on split income (TOSI) and the "reasonableness test," the CMA is concerned that in practice, the proposed rules will result in inconsistent application, as the reasonableness test requires a subjective self-assessment after considering labour and capital contributions. Consider the practical difficulties that will arise in the following situations: * Both spouses are involved in the business on a regular and continuous basis. However, at different points during their life, their involvement is limited because of health or maternity reasons. * All family members (adult children and parents) are involved on a regular and continuous basis in the business. Similar to the example above, each family member has differing levels of involvement at different times and each family member makes unique contributions. * In some cases, a household will be required to decide on the division of labour. The division of labour would consider both inside and outside duties, resulting in one family member being less active in the business for a period of time or permanently because he/she is directly supporting inside duties so that the other spouse's involvement can exceed what would normally be required of an employee. . When assessing the reasonability of a dividend paid, both the taxpayer and CRA are required to evaluate a proper rate of return and assess the risk assumed. Independent data or proxies are not readily available when assessing risk assumed with respect to a private company investment. In the case where a spouse and/or all family members are involved with the business on a regular and continuous basis, practical difficulty will constantly arise when attempting to ascertain with any degree of precision or certainty reasonable compensation in the circumstances. In some cases, a physician's spouse will deliberately choose not to enter the workforce as a second income earner because it is not economically viable to do so given the day-to-day realities of managing a business, raising a family and planning for the future. Constraining income splitting will in some cases cause hardship for families who have organized their division of labour so that the family can fully support the professional's activities. This translates into physicians being more available to grow their practice and to care for patients. If the economics concerning the division of labour within and outside of the household are seriously altered, many small business owners could be motivated to work less and refocus their division of labour. For consideration - prescribed threshold on income sprinkling Dividends are paid to shareholders as a return on their investment in the corporation. Since the distribution of the dividend is not determined by the quantum of a shareholder's contribution to the corporation, it is illogical to use contribution or labour as the criterion that determines when dividend income will be subject to TOSI. A small business is dynamic, and contributions to a family business are required at different times by different people and entail different amounts of effort. Documenting and measuring the many different contributions will undoubtedly create problems because a business owner and their spouse are often inextricably linked when it comes to valuing their contributions to a business. Because of the complexity that the proposed changes would cause, the TOSI income rules should not consider a small business owner's spouse or common-law partner. In the alternative, a threshold should be contemplated that would recognize various contributions and eliminate the uncertainty and judgment required when applying the proposed rules. The implementation of a prescribed threshold of allowable dividends to be paid to family members would alleviate many of the issues with the current reasonableness test. The primary concern with the current wording of the reasonableness tests is the inherent uncertainty because of the difficulty in determining the value of contributions made by family members. A threshold of allowable dividends would inherently acknowledge that family members contribute value and assume risk with respect to a family business. This would eliminate the uncertainty about these amounts paid to family members, allowing small businesses to recognize the contributions of family members without fear of future reassessments at the top marginal rate of tax. This would also shift the focus of the proposals to higher income earners. Dividends above the prescribed threshold would still be subject to the proposed reasonableness test, preventing excessive amounts from being paid to family members where their contributions do not warrant these distributions. These ideas are worthy of consideration but require the engagement of the small business community to ensure that the changes do not produce unintended consequences while achieving their public policy objectives. Conclusion Canada's doctors are fully committed to improving health and health care by helping families, youth and women, growing the economy and ensuring we have thriving communities from coast to coast to coast. We know that these values are shared by governments. As health care providers and as owners of small businesses, Canada's doctors have been committed to these goals for decades. While the full impact of the proposed taxation changes is currently being assessed, every indication points to significant negative ramifications for frontline health care workers and the Canadian economy. Physician medical practices contribute significantly to the local and national economy by directly employing 137,000 Canadians and providing needed medical infrastructure. These entrepreneurs are also responsible for providing a self-funded safety net. These factors have, to a significant degree, been taken into account in settling fee structures for the medical professional on an overall after-tax basis. If those provisions cannot be relied on in the future, fairness would dictate that time be given for those in the relevant provinces to renegotiate their fee structures so that new factors can be taken into account. Fairness would also dictate that other self-funded safety net provisions, such as retirement savings vehicles, be adjusted or created to cover planned and unplanned events. The July 18, 2017, proposals represent the most significant tax changes since 1972. The CMA is concerned that the government may not be aware of the potential for far-reaching unintended consequences of the proposals and therefore strongly urges the government to: 1. suspend the current proposals; 2. conduct a comprehensive review of these proposals to ensure that legislation can meet policy objectives without significant unintended consequences; and 3. engage all Canadians in a comprehensive review of the tax system considering unique aspects of all sectors, including safety net provisions. Appendix A: Unintended consequences There are several potential mitigating measures physicians may apply to offset reductions in net revenue, including the following: * Physicians may decide to operate their practices on a leaner basis, offsetting their loss in net income by reducing practice spending. They may reduce their individual spending on staff and other costs, or they may elect to consolidate several practices into one. * Physicians may decide to reduce their hours worked, or change their practice setting in response to the reduction in net income. Scenario 1 provides an example. Scenario 1: Private practice Background Dr. Johns operates a private practice in rural Ontario. Understanding that there is a significant shortage of physicians in rural communities across Canada, Dr. Johns and her husband moved to their current rural community 10 years ago. Dr. Johns' husband, a teacher by trade, has been unable to secure full-time employment because of the limited number of jobs available in their community. Instead, he helps Dr. Johns by dealing with all operational matters for her clinics. This includes negotiating leases, buying equipment and hiring staff so that Dr. Johns can focus on delivering medical services. The children are involved too; they developed and maintain the clinic website. Over the last 10 years, he has also handled all matters related to the household, including raising their two children. Dr. Johns' children are now 18 and 19 years old and are both starting university in 2018. Dr. Johns, Mr. Johns and their children are shareholders of the medical professional corporation. Outcome Because of the new changes, Dr. Johns worries that she will not be able to help her children pay for university. Dr. and Mr. Johns are now trying to decide if they should close the rural practice and move back to the city, where Mr. Johns could find employment to help pay for their children's education. Scenario 2 illustrates how the proposed tax changes would affect a female pediatrician operating her practice through a corporation. Scenario 2: Retirement Background Dr. Grey is a 55-year-old pediatrician who operates her practice through a corporation. She is married and has two adult children. Her husband is a shareholder in the corporation. Her children are not. After finishing medical school and her residency, she started practising when she was 30. She spent the next three years making minimum payments on her student loans so that she could save enough to finance her maternity leave. Between ages 33 and 35, she had two children and was unable to work. When she returned to work, her husband stopped working to raise the children and manage the household. By age 40 she had finally paid off her medical school debt, but she spent the next 15 years saving to pay for her children's education and supporting the family. As a result, Dr. Grey has not been able to save any money for retirement before now. Outcome Dr. Grey has heard that her plans may be significantly impacted by the changes to both income splitting and passive investments. She has heard that existing portfolios of passive investments will be grandfathered, but she does not see how that will help her because she is only starting to save for retirement now. As Dr. Grey's fees are set by the province she cannot increase the fees she charges to her patients and will therefore have to reduce costs, including staffing costs. Otherwise, she may never be able to retire comfortably. Scenario 3: Married physician at an academic health science centre Background Dr. Ritchie is an incorporated cardiologist working in an academic health science centre. Because of her sporadic schedule her husband is not able to work a traditional job. Instead, he manages the household, and when needed he helps with any administrative activities required for managing Dr. Ritchie's corporation. As Dr. Ritchie understands that medical research is not well funded in Canada, she donates $25,000 per year to her local research institute. Dr. Ritchie currently takes an annual dividend of $135,000 out of her corporation and pays a dividend of $35,000 to her husband. Outcome Under the proposed changes to income splitting, it is unclear what would be considered a "reasonable amount" that can be paid to Dr. Ritchie's husband for his contributions; therefore, Dr. Ritchie will have to take out all funds herself. If the $35,000 typically paid to Dr. Ritchie's husband is now paid to her, the family tax liability will increase by $13,016/year. This means that if the family wants to have the same after-tax cash under the new rules, they will have to draw an additional $23,400 out of the corporation as dividends, increasing total dividends to $193,400. To fund this additional outflow while still saving for retirement, Dr. Ritchie will have to reduce her practice's expenditures by an amount roughly equal to her annual medical research donation. She is strongly considering not making donations to medical research so that she can support her family.
Documents
Less detail

National recognition of physician administrators/executives

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13700
Date
2017-08-23
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Resolution
GC17-14
The Canadian Medical Association supports national recognition of physician administrators/executives with initiatives designed to recognize and support their contributions.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Date
2017-08-23
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Resolution
GC17-14
The Canadian Medical Association supports national recognition of physician administrators/executives with initiatives designed to recognize and support their contributions.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association supports national recognition of physician administrators/executives with initiatives designed to recognize and support their contributions.
Less detail

Clinical care for physician administrators/executives

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13701
Date
2017-08-23
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Health human resources
Resolution
GC17-15
The Canadian Medical Association recognizes the importance of continued involvement in the provision of clinical care for physician administrators/executives, and encourages organizations employing these physicians to provide clinical practice opportunities.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Date
2017-08-23
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Health human resources
Resolution
GC17-15
The Canadian Medical Association recognizes the importance of continued involvement in the provision of clinical care for physician administrators/executives, and encourages organizations employing these physicians to provide clinical practice opportunities.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association recognizes the importance of continued involvement in the provision of clinical care for physician administrators/executives, and encourages organizations employing these physicians to provide clinical practice opportunities.
Less detail

Awareness of the difference between financial/insurance advisers

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13715
Date
2017-08-23
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Resolution
GC17-21
The Canadian Medical Association will work with stakeholders in medical education to encourage awareness of the difference between non-commissioned financial/insurance advisers employed by national and provincial/territorial medical associations and commissioned financial/insurance advisers employed by banks and other corporations.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Date
2017-08-23
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Resolution
GC17-21
The Canadian Medical Association will work with stakeholders in medical education to encourage awareness of the difference between non-commissioned financial/insurance advisers employed by national and provincial/territorial medical associations and commissioned financial/insurance advisers employed by banks and other corporations.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association will work with stakeholders in medical education to encourage awareness of the difference between non-commissioned financial/insurance advisers employed by national and provincial/territorial medical associations and commissioned financial/insurance advisers employed by banks and other corporations.
Less detail

Physical activity history

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13719
Date
2017-08-23
Topics
Health information and e-health
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC17-25
The Canadian Medical Association supports the inclusion of physical activity history within the vital sign section of electronic medical record systems.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Date
2017-08-23
Topics
Health information and e-health
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC17-25
The Canadian Medical Association supports the inclusion of physical activity history within the vital sign section of electronic medical record systems.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association supports the inclusion of physical activity history within the vital sign section of electronic medical record systems.
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Innovative health system pilot projects in Canada

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13721
Date
2017-08-23
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health information and e-health
Resolution
GC17-23
The Canadian Medical Association will support new projects and mechanisms to facilitate the expansion and increase the scale of innovative health system pilot projects in Canada.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Date
2017-08-23
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health information and e-health
Resolution
GC17-23
The Canadian Medical Association will support new projects and mechanisms to facilitate the expansion and increase the scale of innovative health system pilot projects in Canada.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association will support new projects and mechanisms to facilitate the expansion and increase the scale of innovative health system pilot projects in Canada.
Less detail

Third-party forms (Update 2017)

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13643
Date
2017-05-27
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Date
2017-05-27
Replaces
Third-party Forms: The Physician's Role (Update 2010)
Short-Term Illness Certificate
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Text
A physician's assessment and signature on a third-party form have a value that reflects the physician's formal education and training as well as his/her professional experience. Similar to the signatures of other professionals, a physician's signature carries certain responsibilities and a commitment that the information provided is accurate and based on objective data and the patient's medical history. This value needs to be formally recognized and appropriately used. Most third parties have historically relied on the goodwill of physicians to complete their forms free of charge. However, the steady rise of third-party form requests (see Appendix A) and the cumulative time that form completion takes away from direct patient care necessitates a more reasonable approach to form requests and fair remuneration for the physicians' time and expertise. SCOPE OF POLICY This document provides guidance for physicians, patients and organizations that request third-party forms1 subject to federal/provincial/territorial legislation and regulations. Several strategies aimed at reducing the administrative burden of third-party forms are recommended to allow more time for direct patient care.2 GENERAL PRINCIPLES The physician's role * The physician has a well-defined and limited role in form completion - to only provide objective information on physical and/or psychological impairments and abilities, limitations and restrictions, time frames and prognosis from the medical record directly required by the third party for the purpose of administering particular programs or benefits. Questions on forms directed to physicians should be restricted to seeking such information. * A physician has a duty to ensure that he/she has properly completed the form (i.e., he/she has filled out the form completely, accurately and objectively in accordance with the requirements of the physician's provincial or territorial regulatory college). * When asked to provide an opinion on functional abilities to employers or insurers, the focus should be on abilities; information on restrictions should be objective and specific, and restrictions should be listed only when absolutely medically indicated.3 * A physician must not state that a patient has been under his/her care unless that is the case. The duration of the care should be indicated. If a physician does not have sufficient knowledge of an illness to provide information or an opinion upon it, the physician should state this on the certificate. The certification of absence should be based only on patient history if the patient was seen after the illness and should be clearly documented as "patient reports." In instances where a physician is being requested to complete a form by a transient patient (i.e., not the physician's patient), the physician should only comment on observations based on their own medical assessment. * A physician must have a patient's consent to disclose information to any third party, such as the patient's employer or insurer. Unless prevented by law, the physician should ensure the patient is aware that the report he/she provides to the third party is outside the physician-patient relationship and that in completing the form, the physician has a professional obligation to accurately and objectively report upon the patient's condition. A physician must not disclose more information than is covered by the patient's consent - this includes only providing information relevant to the nature of the request and that is reasonably necessary. If a patient limits his/her consent, the physician must consider whether such limitation is relevant to his/her report and if it is, report the limitation to the third party. * An accurate and relevant narrative summary of a patient's clinical files by the physician should be sufficient information for third parties. The requesting of complete copies of clinical files is unwarranted in the significant majority of cases unless mandated by legislation. * Physicians should consult with the Canadian Medical Protective Association and their provincial regulatory college for guidance and clarification on third-party form requests (see Appendix B). The patient's role * To the greatest extent possible, patients should review the third-party form and be aware of the information being requested. * Most forms request information on patients' subjective complaints and self-reported function. In such instances, it would be more appropriate to have this information reported directly by the patient to the requesting party. * Patients must be aware of the following: o Receipt of their consent authorizes the attending physician to accurately, completely and objectively explain the patient's medical condition as part of the physician's professional responsibility. o Physicians have a professional and ethical obligation to only document that which is true and medically defensible. The physician does not act as the decision-maker for absences or claims adjudication. o In some instances (e.g., fitness to drive), physicians also have legislated requirements to complete third-party forms regarding their patient. The role of the third party * Third parties should only request medical forms when there is a need for medical information about a patient (i.e., information that could not be provided by a non-physician) to be used for employment/education purposes or the evaluation of a medically related benefit for the patient. o It is the role of the third party to adjudicate on a patient's eligibility for a benefit, not the physician. o A request for a patient's non-medical information (i.e., unrelated to the patient's medical condition/history) or a request to certify identity (e.g., asking a physician to certify the principal parent for the purpose of determining eligibility to receive child benefits) is an inappropriate use of medical resources and it is at the discretion of the physician whether to comply with such requests. o Requests for updates should be reasonable and respect the physician's prognosis. o Wherever possible, third-party forms should be standardized (e.g., program eligibility, tombstone data, wording of questions) to save time and reduce administrative errors. o Program eligibility should be made clear to patients and providers to reduce inappropriate form requests (e.g., educating tax advisors on government program eligibility to prevent inappropriate requests for the disability tax credit). * To make the process of completing a medical form effective and efficient, third parties must involve and inform physicians early and on an ongoing basis, beginning by asking physicians to help to determine whether there is a need for a medical form to be completed in the first place. Medical input is also necessary in the design of the form and to determine how often the form needs to be completed. Physicians should be involved in periodic reviews of existing medical forms with third parties (e.g., governments, insurance companies, associations) for several reasons: to determine whether the forms remain relevant and as a simple as possible; to determine appropriate remuneration for completing the forms; and to ensure that physicians are notified of any changes to requests for medical certification in writing rather than having changes communicated to the physician informally through the patient.4 * In some cases, other health professionals (e.g., occupational therapists) are in a better position to objectively assess patients' abilities and could be designated as qualified practitioners for the purpose of completing the forms, with physicians providing information pertaining to medical assessments and prognoses. Short-term illnesses * Confirmation of a short-term absence from work because of minor illness is a matter to be addressed between an employer and an employee directly. Such an absence does not require physician confirmation of illness and represents an inefficient use of scarce health care resources. It is the employer's responsibility -not the physician's - to oversee employee absenteeism. It may be that for many cases, the need for a medical certificate can be replaced by a more effective alternative that does not involve physicians and is agreed to by all parties concerned (e.g., employer and employees). * If an employer, educational institution or other third party requests an illness confirmation certificate for a short-term, minor illness that would otherwise not have required medical attention, said party should recognize that completion of the certificate is an uninsured service for which physicians are entitled to compensation, preferably from the third party requesting the information, rather than burdening the patient. Fair compensation * The third party requesting the information should be responsible for compensating the physician for their medical information and expertise. At a provincial/territorial government level, this could mean making the completion of provincial/territorial forms an insured service under the provincial/territorial health insurance plan. * Physician reimbursement should cover the time and resources devoted to the provision of medical information to third parties (submitted in writing, electronically and/or by phone). This includes compensation for any uninsured medical assessment necessary to complete the form, for the provision of copies of medical information, and for the time and resources needed to respond to any follow-up requests. Wherever possible, the compensation rates should be consistent and should reflect the time and effort necessary to complete the form(s). * Physicians should be compensated for completing forms related to return to work by provincial/territorial worker's compensation plans; they should be compensated for completing return-to-work forms for non-occupational conditions by provincial/territorial insurance plans, given the important health implications of return-to-work management. * In the absence of third-party compensation, physicians may charge the patient for the service they provide. As stated in the CMA's Code of Ethics, physicians should consider the nature of the service provided and the ability of the patient to pay, and they should be prepared to discuss the fee with the patient.5 Patient decisions about payment for uninsured services must not negatively affect the physician-patient relationship or pose a barrier to accessing health care services. The physician may decide to reduce or waive his/her fees if the patient lacks the financial ability to pay. Physicians should consult their provincial/territorial medical association for guidance regarding direct billing of patients. Appendix A The increasing administrative burden Physicians face a multitude of requests on a daily basis to complete medical forms and certificates. Requests come from many sources, including governments, government agencies (e.g., workers' compensation boards) and the private/non-governmental sectors (e.g., employers, insurance companies, schools, sporting organizations). In a 2016 survey of CMA physician members on third-party forms, physicians identified sick notes as the form that they were most frequently asked to complete (67.0% of respondents reported having to fill this form out more than five times per week). Short-term disability claim forms were the second most frequently requested form, with 42.3% of respondents reporting completing this form more than five times per week. Medical certificates for sickness benefit claims under the federal government's employment insurance program - just one example of a third-party form requiring medical input - had to be completed for 336,800 approved applications in 2013-20146 (the vast majority of these certificates would have been completed by physicians). Physicians continue to devote considerable time to completing forms. Government disability forms, just one type of third-party form, require considerable amount of time to complete. Over 62% of the physicians in the 2016 survey indicated they spend 21-30 minutes (31% of respondents) or more than 30 minutes (31% of respondents) to complete the Canada Pension Plan disability form. Similarly, 60% indicated they spend 21-30 minutes (33% of respondents) or more than 30 minutes (27% of respondents) to complete the Veterans' Affairs disability benefit form. The most frequently identified concern that physicians have with completing third-party forms (75% of those who participated in the 2016 survey) was the time it took from direct patient care. The second most frequently identified concern (63.4%) was the number of inappropriate requests from third parties.7 Increasing administrative workload/paperwork has been identified by physicians as one of the biggest contributors increasing the demand for their time at work. 8 In many cases, these requests can be an inappropriate use of a physician's time, such as requests for patient information for administrative purposes. Responding to such requests reduces both timely access to care and the time available for direct patient care. Appendix B Policies in the office to better manage third-party form requests Office policies and strategies can be instituted by physicians to better manage third-party requests. These strategies include: * having an office policy or standardized method to manage third-party form requests; * having clear communication and posted signage on patient and physician responsibilities regarding forms and fees; * using a standard form template (e.g., for sick notes)9; and * organizing time to complete forms. Physicians are also encouraged to consult with their provincial/territorial medical association and their regulatory college for guidance related to form requests. These strategies can be part of an overall effort by organizations to raise the awareness of employers, governments and other third parties of the need for a more appropriate approach to form requests to eliminate time wasted for all parties and reduce the inappropriate use of health care resources. 1 The term third-party form refers to any form, letter, medical certificate, mandatory reporting form, photocopy or other document containing medical information about the patient that a physician has been requested to complete or provide by a third party on behalf of their patient. [0]The term third party refers to an employer, government department or agency, private insurer or other organization that is requesting medical information about the patient with the intention of using it. 2 This policy should be considered in conjunction with CMA's policy statement entitled The Treating Physician's Role in Helping Patients Return to Work after an Illness or Injury. 3 Choosing Wisely Canada. Occupational Medicine Specialists of Canada. Five things physicians and patients should question; 2014 Oct 29. Available: www.choosingwiselycanada.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Occupational-Medicine.pdf 4 Saskatchewan Medical Association. SMA relative value guide. Saskatoon: The Association; 2004. 5 Canadian Medical Association. Code of Ethics. Ottawa: The Association; 2004. 6 This figure does not include the number of forms completed for individuals who applied but did not qualify for the program. Canada Employment Insurance Commission. Employment insurance monitoring and assessment report 2013/14. Ottawa: Employment and Social Development Canada. Available: www.esdc.gc.ca/en/reports/ei/monitoring2014/chapter2_4.page 7 Canadian Medical Association. e-Panel survey summary: third-party forms. Ottawa: The Association; 2017. 8 Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. National physician survey 2013. Results by FP/GP or other specialist, sex, age and all physicians [table]. Ottawa: The College; 2013. Available: http://nationalphysiciansurvey.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/2013-National-EN-Q13r.pdf 9 Steven Harrison. OMA sickness certificate template: a practical office resource. Ontario Medical Review 2004 Dec.
Documents
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Family practice physicians

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy557
Last Reviewed
2017-03-04
Date
1984-08-21
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Resolution
GC84-11
That the family practice physician be competent to provide primary, continuing and comprehensive care to all age groups. He should be competent to recognize and treat common illness -- including severe illness -- with episodic consultative help from other specialists. He should have hospital privileges and should participate in the active care of patients in hospitals. His core training should include training in obstetrics.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2017-03-04
Date
1984-08-21
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Resolution
GC84-11
That the family practice physician be competent to provide primary, continuing and comprehensive care to all age groups. He should be competent to recognize and treat common illness -- including severe illness -- with episodic consultative help from other specialists. He should have hospital privileges and should participate in the active care of patients in hospitals. His core training should include training in obstetrics.
Text
That the family practice physician be competent to provide primary, continuing and comprehensive care to all age groups. He should be competent to recognize and treat common illness -- including severe illness -- with episodic consultative help from other specialists. He should have hospital privileges and should participate in the active care of patients in hospitals. His core training should include training in obstetrics.
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Health care costs

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy708
Last Reviewed
2017-03-04
Date
1984-08-21
Topics
Health information and e-health
Resolution
GC84-52
That the Canadian Medical Association supports provincial/ territorial medical associations supplying health providers with cost data; and encourages the associations to work with government agencies to educate the public regarding health care costs.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2017-03-04
Date
1984-08-21
Topics
Health information and e-health
Resolution
GC84-52
That the Canadian Medical Association supports provincial/ territorial medical associations supplying health providers with cost data; and encourages the associations to work with government agencies to educate the public regarding health care costs.
Text
That the Canadian Medical Association supports provincial/ territorial medical associations supplying health providers with cost data; and encourages the associations to work with government agencies to educate the public regarding health care costs.
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Tools for tracking patient care costs

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy709
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
1984-08-21
Topics
Health information and e-health
Resolution
GC84-54
That the Canadian Medical Association actively encourage the development of appropriate information systems and instruments to relate specific patient-care and components of care to their costs; and that the active involvement of physicians is essential to ensure that quality of patient care remains a central concern in the development of these management tools.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
1984-08-21
Topics
Health information and e-health
Resolution
GC84-54
That the Canadian Medical Association actively encourage the development of appropriate information systems and instruments to relate specific patient-care and components of care to their costs; and that the active involvement of physicians is essential to ensure that quality of patient care remains a central concern in the development of these management tools.
Text
That the Canadian Medical Association actively encourage the development of appropriate information systems and instruments to relate specific patient-care and components of care to their costs; and that the active involvement of physicians is essential to ensure that quality of patient care remains a central concern in the development of these management tools.
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