9.3 Access to Patient Information

Last updated on April 23, 2024

Note: How practitioners get access to PharmaNet has changed as of December 1, 2020. If you need new access to PharmaNet—for the first time ever, or new access after a period without—you need to enrol in PRIME first. This section of the policy manual will soon be updated. For now, please see:

General Policy Description

Access to patient information on PharmaNet is subject to the Pharmaceutical Services Act and the Information Management Regulation.The Ministry of Health is responsible for the management of PharmaNet.

PharmaNet was developed to address the diverse needs of individuals and organizations using it. Some users need “write” access to specific parts; others may require “read-only” access to specific information.

All PharmaNet users must enrol in PRIME and be granted access by the Ministry of Health. This replaces all previous processes for user enrolment. PRIME and PRIME User Terms of Access and organization agreements have replaced all previous processes and documents for access to PharmaNet (e.g., confidentiality undertakings). All PharmaNet users must be granted access by the Ministry of Health, via the PRIME system.

Each site (private community health practice, HA facility, community pharmacy or device provider location) must be registered with the Ministry of Health.

Pharmacy technicians, medical office assistants, student nurses and other people accessing PharmaNet on behalf of independent PharmaNet users (e.g., pharmacists, registered nurses) must be 18 or older.

Individuals unable to access PRIME must contact PRIMESupport@gov.bc.ca to access an alternate process.

The Conformance Standards identify business, technical, privacy and security rules for applications that approved individuals may use to access PharmaNet.

Policy Details


Access at community pharmacies

The Pharmaceutical Services Act and its Information Management Regulation permit pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to access personal health information on PharmaNet.

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are permitted to access medical and claims history if working at a pharmacy enrolled with PharmaCare. Access is permitted only for the delivery of patient care within the pharmacist or pharmacy technician’s scope of practice under the Health Professions Act. Individuals accessing PharmaNet on behalf of a pharmacist (e.g., pharmacy assistants) normally do so under the same requirements and scope as the pharmacist providing care to the patient at the time.

The Pharmacy Operations and Drug Scheduling Act (PODSA) Bylaw 35(2) (PDF, 353KB) limits registrants of the College of Pharmacists of BC (CPBC) to accessing a patient's PharmaNet record only:

  • To dispense a drug
  • To provide patient consultation, 
  • To evaluate a patient's drug usage, and/or
  • For the purposes of claims adjudication and payment by an insurer.

Once a year every pharmacy in B.C. undergoes a PharmaNet access audit conducted by the CPBC to ensure pharmacists are accessing PharmaNet records only for appropriate reasons. 

>> See the CPBC PharmaNet Patient Record website for further details.


Access at health authority facilities (e.g., acute care, emergency departments, health authority-owned and -operated facilities, some outpatient clinics)

Authorized clinicians may be granted access to PharmaNet to deliver patient care in health authority facilities. Users must enrol in PRIME to obtain or retain their access on the schedule published in the Information Management Regulation. Most users may access and record in the patient’s medical history; however, some activities are restricted by location type and PharmaNet software application. 

For example:

  • Users of a Hospital Access to PharmaNet application may only view the patient’s PharmaNet profile
  • Users of an Emergency Department Access to PharmaNet application may view the patient’s profile, and enter the following into PharmaNet:
    • Notes on adverse drug reactions, allergies, and clinical conditions
    • Information about drugs dispensed to the patient in the emergency department (not via a pharmacy)
  • More details are available in the Conformance Standards for PharmaNet

Health authority sites must register with the Ministry of Health. PRIME registration is under development for health authority sites, so the existing process for the health authority to confirm their sites with the Ministry remains in place


Access at private community health practices

Authorized practitioners may access PharmaNet to receive up-to-date records of medications dispensed to a patient, in a timely and secure manner, at each registered practice site.

Users may enrol to access PharmaNet from one or more sites at which they practice. Each user must enrol themselves in PRIME; no one can do it on their behalf.

Practitioners who wish to access PharmaNet from health authority facilities must do so at their health authority or authorities.

Eligibility criteria, and issues rendering a practitioner ineligible, are laid out in the Information Management Regulation.

PRIME and PRIME User Terms of Access and organization agreements have replaced all previous processes and documents for access to PharmaNet.

Individuals unable to enrol in PRIME must contact PRIMESupport@gov.bc.ca to access alternate processes.

>> See the Community Health Practice Access to PharmaNet website for further information about site registration and PRIME user enrolment for private community health practice settings.


Access by device providers agents

Device providers enrolled in the PharmaCare program (e.g., prosthetic and orthotic suppliers, ostomy suppliers, mastectomy suppliers, medical device distributors) may be granted access to PharmaNet to submit online claims to PharmaCare.

Device providers may only access their own claims history for a given patient in PharmaNet.

PRIME enrolment and site registration for device providers is under development. Contact PRIMESupport@gov.bc.ca to obtain documents.


Access by patients

A patient may request a printed copy of their confidential and personal data from either a local pharmacy system, from PharmaNet, or both. A patient may request a copy of either through any community pharmacy. 

Note: The local system record from a pharmacy contains only those medications that were dispensed by the pharmacy at which the request is made. 

The PharmaNet patient record does not contain any medication expense or PharmaCare coverage information.

Patients may request either

  • A current PharmaNet patient record—includes the patient’s demographic information, clinical information, adverse drug reaction information, and medication history of all the dispenses within the last 14 months, or the most recent 15 dispenses within the last 14 months
  • An archived patient record—includes a record of medications dispensed before the last 14 months. Records can be requested from September 1, 1995, onward (when PharmaNet was implemented), though records before January 1, 1996 are not complete.

While a community pharmacy can print a patient’s locally stored record, it cannot print the PharmaNet patient record. Instead, the pharmacy must submit the request to the Ministry of Health which, in turn, mails the information directly to the patient. Pharmacists can use their local system software to request the PharmaNet record.

Each access to a patient record is documented whether a prescription is filled or not. The PharmaNet patient record will list all access to the patient’s record, including access that is not associated with a prescription fill.

Patients may also freely access their PharmaNet history online from their Health Gateway account, dating back to 1995.

Refer also to Section 9.5—Patient Records.


Access for research

Access to PharmaNet patient information for health research is subject to the Pharmaceutical Services Act.

All research access, including clinical research is overseen and must be approved by the Data Stewardship Committee (DSC). The DSC also reviews requests to use PharmaNet data to contact individuals to request participation in health research prior to their assessment by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

>> See the Data Stewardship Committee website for further information.


PharmaNet access restrictions

These restrictions ensure patient privacy is protected according to B.C. legislation.

Locale and site access restrictions

To comply with the terms of the Information Management Regulation, access to PharmaNet can be granted only to individuals and sites physically located in British Columbia. 

Any online PharmaNet claim must be processed by the B.C. site (that is, it cannot be processed remotely from another location), and any personal information derived from that claim or from PharmaNet in general must remain in B.C.

No one may access PharmaNet outside of a registered site unless the relevant site and all offsite users are first approved by the Ministry of Health for remote access. All remote access is associated with a specific PharmaNet site; ‘roaming’ access is not permitted. All remote access must be done using software approved by the Ministry of Health for this purpose.

Device restrictions

No one may access PharmaNet by means of a wireless mobile device such as a laptop, smartphone or tablet unless the device is 100% owned by a registered practice or facility and is fully compliant with the government’s information management and security requirements for equipment and infrastructures. The devices must be tested and approved by the Ministry of Health before use.