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Research Module 5.0 — Research Data Security and Encryption

This module discusses issues of patient personal health information and how it is handled, transmitted and kept secure when used for research purposes.

5.1 Notes regarding Privacy

Please review the following documents regarding privacy and confidentiality during research and all other work done within the Department of Surgery: 

5.2 Handling of Patient Data

All electronic patient related data should be kept in password protected files with identifying keys not kept in the same location. Most studies will begin with two separate databases or spreadsheets: one with identifying information on the participants that assigns each participant an individual study code, and the second with study code and all the study information. The identifier database/spreadsheet must be distroyed in a confidential and permanent manner as soon as possible when the study is complete. All electronic files must be kept on the secure drives of either a hospital corporation or the University's FHS s: drive. All paper files must be kept in locked file cabinets in locked offices. All files must be kept for a minimum of 10 years following completion of the study, or in the case of Health Canada approved studies, for 25 years after the completion of the study. See below for information on file storage. Please remember that patient data should not be carried around on memory sticks or maintained on a laptop

5.3 Transmission of Patient Data

Occasionally you will be required to transmit data from one site to another. This can be done by several methods. If you are sending completed paper clinical report forms, you must use a secure courier service such as FedEx, UPS or Canada Post Priority or Xpresspost services. You must be able to track the package and a signature at the receiving end is required. If you are involved in a multicentre trial, often you will be provided with either a secure connection to a study data entry system or datafax. Should you have to transmit patient data to another site by email, encryptionsoftware is available from the FHS Computer Services Unit on campus. Please contact CSU directly for information on email encryption services: the CSU Help Desk can be reached at x 22429 or their website:

FHS Computer Services Unit website


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