Below are some frequently asked questions and concerns surrounding privacy.
Why does privacy matter? Is my information safe? What is PHIPA? Who has access to my PHI? Who does not have access to my PHI? What is a lockbox? Can I access my own information? How long do we keep information? How to we dispose of information? Can I grant others access to my information? Can I access my child’s PHI? How secure is the Patient Portal? What happens if a privacy breach occurs? More Information Contact Info
Why does privacy matter?
Personal Health Information (PHI) is among some of the most sensitive personal information. Many people are understandably protective about sharing details relating to their medical conditions. However, in order to provide you with the best possible care, health information must flow freely between healthcare workers. Ensuring a non-disruptive flow of information while maintaining a high level of privacy is something that the Niagara North Family Health Team takes very seriously.
Is my information safe?
At the Niagara North Family Health Team we do our best to ensure the security of your personal health information. At our clinics, we store almost all your health information electronically. Any personal health information that is stored electronically is encrypted, password protected and stored in accordance with PHIPA regulations. All of our staff, learners and volunteers are required to sign off on a confidentiality agreement and only access information that is necessary for care and treatment purposes. When destroying or moving health records we take care to ensure that they are destroyed or moved in accordance with privacy regulations.
What is PHIPA?
PHIPA Ontario’s Health Privacy Legislation. It stands for Personal Health Information Protection Act. It establishes the privacy rules that Health Care Providers and those involved in your healthcare must adhere to. It also sets out the rights and responsibilities that you have as a patient.
For more information on PHIPA click HERE
Who has access to my Personal Health Information (PHI)?
As a patient of the Niagara North Family Health Team there is the implied (non-verbal/non-written) consent that allows for the use of your Personal Health Information for your care and treatment. As such, only those involved in your direct care have access to your Personal Health Information. Those involved may include nurses, doctors, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, social workers, dietitians, reception staff and other health care providers. Each of these individuals may only access the health information that is necessary to appropriately carry out their duties. At any time, you have the right to restrict access to part or all of your Personal Health Information through the use of a Lockbox.
Who does not have access to my Personal Health Information (PHI)?
Unless you give permission (verbal or written), your personal health information is never disclosed or shared with anyone who is not directly involved in your care. This includes all family members, spouses, friends, employers etc. If you have chosen to create a Lockbox, this will further limit who has access to your Personal Health Information
In some circumstances, some of your personal health information may be disclosed or shared without your permission to governments ( ex. Ministry of Health, etc.) where it is required or where it is authorized by law (i.e. by the court).
What is a Lockbox?
Under PHIPA patients have the right to make choices and control how their personal health information is collected, used and disclosed. As such, a lockbox gives you the opportunity to restrict access to part or all of your Personal Health Information. Having a lockbox may affect how your healthcare is delivered. Speak with your healthcare provider if you are interested in requesting a Lockbox.
For more information on Lockboxes click HERE
Can I access my own information?
As a patient you have the right to access your personal health record in a timely manner. If you request a copy of your record, one will be provided to you at a reasonable cost. If you wish to view the original record, one of our staff must be present to maintain the integrity of the record, and a reasonable fee may be charged for this access. Patient requests for access to the medical record should be made verbally or in writing to their primary care physician. Please note if when requesting a copy of your medical records it may take up to 30 days to process.
The form for requesting your Personal Health Information can be found HERE
***In extremely limited circumstances you may be denied access to your medical records, but only if providing access would create a significant risk to you or to another person.***
How long do we keep information?
We retain patient records as required by law and professional regulations.
How do we dispose of information when it is no longer needed?
When information is no longer required, it is destroyed in a secure manner, according to set procedures that govern the storage and destruction of personal information.
Can I grant other individuals access to my information?
In the event that you wish for another individual outside of your care team (e.x. family member, friend, spouse etc.) to have access to your personal health information (including picking up reports or requisitions) you must provide express verbal or written consent to your healthcare provider. Without this consent your healthcare provider and staff will refuse to share any health information (including reports or requisitions) with these individuals.
The form for granting another individual access to your personal health information can be found HERE.
My child is under 16 years old – do I have the right to access their Personal Health Information?
PHIPA outlines that a capable child regardless of age must provide consent for the collection, use and disclosure of their information. An individual is deemed ‘capable’ if they are able to understand the information required to decide whether to consent to the collection, use or disclosure of their personal health information, and they understand the reasonably foreseeable consequences of giving, not giving, withholding or withdrawing their consent.
For example a child that is 2 years old will likely not be capable of providing consent over their healthcare information and decisions. However a child that is 14 years old may be more than capable making healthcare decisions and may restrict their parent/guardian from having access.
How secure is the Health Myself Patient Portal?
The Niagara North Family Health Team has ensured that the Health Myself Patient Portal is compliant with the most recent Personal Health Information Privacy regulations. As such only those involved in your direct treatment (doctors, nurses, and their reception) have access to the information shared over the Health Myself Portal. Health communications made over the portal are considered part of your personal health information.
Not familiar with the patient portal? – Click HERE for more information
For more information on the privacy of the Health Myself Portal click HERE.
To sign up for the Patient Portal click HERE.
What happens if a Privacy Breach occurs?
In the unfortunate event that a privacy breach does occur. The Niagara North Family Health Team has a specific Privacy Breach Protocol that is followed to appropriately address the breach.
More information on Privacy Breaches can be found by clicking HERE.
For More Information
You can also contact:
Niagara North Family Health Team Privacy Officer
7-145 Carlton Street
St. Catharines, Ontario, L2R 1R5
Further information on privacy and your rights in regards to your personal health information can be found on the Information and Privacy Commissioner website at www.ipc.on.ca.