Alberta Netcare Masking

"Protecting Patient Privacy through Masking Information in Alberta Netcare."

Albertans have the option of requesting that their health information in Alberta Netcare be "masked." This means that the individualís health information will not be automatically visible when a record is accessed, except for demographic information such as;†first and last name, date of birth, gender and personal health number.†Masking your health information†enables†authorized custodians and affiliates to actively consider an individual's expressed wish to mask their information through Alberta Netcare.

Alberta Netcare Masking Resources

More Information on Masking

Alberta Netcare Masking Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions on Masking


How do I know if a patient's Alberta Netcare EHR is masked?

In Alberta Netcare Portal, the patient EHR will have a ďlockĒ icon next to the individualís name. This indicates that their EHR is masked.†It is not necessary to actually view an individualís lab and other data in order to determine if a mask has been set.

Is a masked record in the Alberta Netcare EHR also masked in a physicianís EMR?

No.†Masking in Alberta Netcare†does not mask an individualís health information in other electronic†health information systems used by health care providers in Alberta.

What information is masked in Alberta Netcare Portal?

All patient health information is masked in Alberta Netcare Portal with the exception of patient demographic information (first and last name, date of birth, gender and personal health number). Patient demographic information is not masked because demographic information is the minimum information required to ensure that the right patient record is accessed.†Visible demographic information allows†Alberta Netcare Portal users†to differentiate between patients and be able to find a patient in instances of unmasking or rescinding a mask.

Where do I go for Alberta Netcare Masking help?

For further information related to the masking process or for assistance filling out the form, call the Health Information Act (HIA) Help Desk at 780-427-8089 or email: hiahelpdesk@gov.ab.ca

For information about faxing to the AHS-Edmonton Patient Information Services and the technical application of the mask, call AHS Patient Information Services office at 780-735-0650.




Unmasking a Patient Record


If I unmask a patient record, can another Alberta Netcare Portal user view the unmasked record?

No. Masked information only becomes viewable for the health care provider that unmasked the record.†The patient will stay unmasked for as long as the user maintains an open session.† Once the session is logged off or closed, it will remain unmasked for a period of 20 mins after the time of logout.† If the user signs back in within the 20 mins, the record is still unmasked, and the 20 min value will reset upon logout of that session.†

Note: The unmasking event is logged and subject to auditing.



My patient has given me permission to unmask his EHR any time I need to. Is there a permanent unmask function that I can use?

No. Alberta Netcare clinicians that receive their patientís consent to unmask their record must still go through the unmask process every time they access the patientís record. This consent must meet the requirements established in the Health Information Act including but not limited to a date from which the consent is effective and a date that the consent will expire.


Applying a Mask


What are best practices for applying/ rescinding a mask on an individualís Alberta Netcare EHR?

  • Use the appropriate forms.
  • The custodian and individual should meet either face-to-face or by phone to discuss the risks and benefits of:
    • masking the individualís EHR
    • rescinding the individualís masked EHR.

If an individualís masked EHR is rescinded without their consent, the custodian should ensure that the individual is informed, and the rescind date and reason is marked on the form.



Who has the authority to mask an individualís health information?

Only authorized custodians, such as Alberta Health Services, physicians and pharmacists who are participating in the Alberta Netcare EHR can respond to an individualís request for masking of their health information.†

Authorized custodians can delegate affiliates who can authorize a masking request within their organizations. Affiliates must exercise due diligence and comply with their professional practice standards

Note: The authorized custodian retains responsibility for decisions made by affiliates to authorize, refuse and rescind masking within the organization.



What do I do if a patient in my care asks for their EHR to be masked?

If you meet the requirements to authorize Alberta Netcare Masking for your patient, follow the Guideline for Application for Masking document (attached to the form) and take the opportunity to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of masking with the patient. This includes discussing:
  • What a mask is.
  • Situations that warrant unmasking.
  • Any other risks that may be associated with applying a mask.
  • Describe how their health information will be accessed for treatment and care purposes.

In the event that you do not meet the requirements to authorize Alberta Netcare Masking, direct the requesting individual to a custodian participating in the Alberta Netcare EHR with whom the patient has a current care relationship and who is able to authorize the masking. Those custodians able to authorize masking may include physicians, pharmacists, or Alberta Health Services.



Can I refuse to mask a patientís EHR?

Yes. †You can refuse to mask a patientís EHR if there are reasons to refuse the masking, for example, in the event of a public safety issue.† The custodian is responsible for explaining the reasons for the denial to the requesting individual.†
  1. The individual then completes the top portion of the Application for Masking form.
  2. The custodian completes the REFUSAL TO AUTHORIZE portion of the form and documents the reason on the back of the form.†
  3. The original form is placed on the patientís file in paper or electronic format (depending on the Custodianís preference).†

Do not fax any refused application forms.



If I have helped my patient complete the application, and discussed masking and related issues, can I let my patient submit the form him/herself?

No.The custodian must fax the form to Alberta Health Services (AHS) who is responsible for actually setting or rescinding the mask. The custodian should retain a copy of the form for their own records, regardless of whether or not they have chosen to authorize or rescind a mask.

How long does it take to set the mask on a patient's EHR?

Once the Application for Alberta Netcare Masking form is faxed, Alberta Netcare will usually be set within three business days. Incomplete or illegible forms may necessitate contacting the requesting individual or the custodian. This may delay the setting of the mask.†

Can Alberta Health set a mask in response to a request from an individual?

No. Due to the clinical implications of applying a mask, the request must be made to a custodian or delegate participating in Alberta Netcare. If an individual is experiencing difficulty with the masking process, the Health Information Act (HIA) Help Desk may be contacted to provide assistance.


Rescinding a Mask


What are best practices for masking/ rescinding masking of a personís Alberta Netcare EHR?

  • Use the appropriate forms.
  • The custodian and individual should meet either face-to-face or by phone to discuss the risks and benefits of:
    • Masking the individualís EHR.
    • Rescinding the individualís masked EHR.

If an individualís masked EHR is rescinded without their consent, the custodian should ensure that the individual is informed, and the rescind date and reason is marked on the form.



What do I do if a patient asks for their masked EHR information to be rescinded?

There are several steps to follow when rescinding a mask Ė all of which are described in the Application for†Masking. If possible, direct the requesting individual to a custodian participating in the Alberta Netcare EHR with whom the patient has a current care relationship and who is able to rescind the mask. †The custodian must exercise due diligence and comply with their professional practice standards. Those able to authorize rescinding the mask may include physicians, pharmacists, or Alberta Health Services.†

Note: The custodian who is asked to authorize the rescinding of the mask does not need to be the same custodian who originally authorized the application of the mask.



Can I decide to rescind an individualís mask without their consent?

Yes Ė if certain conditions are met. Custodians, such as Alberta Health Services, physicians, and pharmacists who participate in Alberta Netcare EHR can rescind (or delegate an affiliate to rescind) a masked EHR if:
  • The mask has consequences for public health and safety.
  • The masking process is no longer consistent with the custodianís professional practical guidelines.
  • There are other compelling reasons to rescind the mask.

The custodian who rescinds the mask does not need to be the same custodian who originally authorized the application of the mask. This custodian must exercise due diligence and comply with their professional practice standards. The custodian retains responsibility for decisions made by affiliates to rescind Alberta Netcare Masking within the organization. The individual must be informed of the rescinding as soon as possible.



How long does it take to rescind the mask on a patientís EHR?

Once the ďGuideline for Authorization to Rescind Alberta Netcare MaskingĒ form is faxed, Alberta Netcare Masking will be rescinded usually within three (3) business days. Incomplete or illegible forms may necessitate contacting the requesting custodian and may delay the rescinding of the mask.†


Communicating with the Patient


As a custodian, what should I include in my discussion with the individual requesting the mask?

Participating custodians who have a current care relationship with the requesting individual are required to discuss with him/her:†
  • The risks and benefits of applying masking.
  • How his/her health information will be accessed for treatment and care purposes.
  • That unmasking may occur without consent in specific situations.

Custodians should also consider ethical and professionally-regulated issues related to applying the mask. Content to include in your discussion is included in the form Application for Masking.



What do I do if I canít meet the mask/rescind mask requestor face-to-face to discuss the consequences of their request?

If it is not possible to meet in person, you may complete the form for the individual, if the personís identity can be verified. On the form, note that the individualís request was communicated by telephone.

Do I provide my patient with a copy of the signed form?

No. There is no reason for a patient to retain a copy of the form. Forms are not available to the general public.


For further information related to the masking process or for assistance filling out the form, call the Health Information Act (HIA) Help Desk at 780-427-8089 or email: hiahelpdesk@gov.ab.ca

For information about faxing to the AHS-Edmonton Patient Information Services and the technical application of the mask, call AHS Patient Information Services office at 780-735-0650.