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 PHIPA: Access to Records

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This Info guide has been prepared by the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office in the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for general Informational purposes only.  It does not contain legal advice.  If you have a question of would like advice about your specific legal situation, you should contact a lawyer.

 

June 2016

What is personal health information (PHI)?

  • Personal health information includes the following information about you:
    • your physical health and mental health;
    • your health history;
    • your family health history;
    • the health care you have received;
    • your health card number; and
    • the name of your substitute decision-maker.
  • The Personal Health Information Protection Act, determines how a health information custodian can collect, use and disclose your personal health information. It is also subject to certain limited exceptions, gives you a right of access to your own personal health information.
  • A health information custodian may keep a record of your personal health information in written, printed, computerized or photographic form.

 

Do I have a right to see my record of personal health information?

  • Yes. You have the right to access your own personal health information. There are some exceptions to this right of access. For example, you do not have a right of access to a record of personal health information that could:
    • result in serious harm to your treatment or recovery;
    • result in serious bodily harm to you or another person; or
    • reveal the identity of someone who provided information on the understanding that their name would not be revealed.

 

How do I obtain access to my record of personal health information?

  • You make a request in writing to the health information custodian that has custody or control of your personal health information. You must provide the health information custodian with enough detail to allow it to identify and locate the record with reasonable efforts. For example, if you are requesting access to a record at a hospital, you might provide the approximate dates of your admission, your age at the time and any additional information you think may help identify your record.
  • Many health information custodians have their own form for requesting access to personal health information and you may be asked to complete this form to make the request. You should keep a copy of your access request and note the date you sent the request to the health information custodian and how it was sent (i.e., delivered in person or mail). This helps establish the date the health information custodian received the request which is important when determining procedural timelines under Personal Health Information Protection Act.

 

How long does the Health Information Custodian have to respond to my request?

  • The Health Information Custodian must respond to your request within 30 days of receiving it. The Health Information Custodian:
    • may grant you access to your record (i.e. by making it available or providing a copy);
    • tell you the record does not exist or cannot be found; or
    • refuse your request for reasons stated in the legislation (Personal Health Information Protection Act).
  • If the record no longer exists or the Health Information Custodian is refusing access, the Health Information Custodian must give you a written notice explaining why you will not be granted access to the record, and must notify you if you are entitled to make a complaint about the refusal to the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

 

Can the 30 day period be extended?

  • Yes. The 30 day period may be extended for a further 30 day period in certain circumstances. The HIC must provide a written notice informing you of the extension of time and the reason for it.

 

What if I require quick access to my record?

  • If you ask for a response within a specific time period and provide a satisfactory reason for why you require access to the PHI on an urgent basis, the Health Information Custodian must respond in that time period if they are reasonably able to do so.

 

What can I do if I do not get access to my record?

  • If access to your record is refused or the HIC does not respond to your request within the specified time period, you may make a complaint to the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

 

Is there a cost for accessing or copying my record?

  • Possibly. If a Health Information Custodian makes a record or part of a record of Personal Health Information available to you, or provides a copy of your record to you, the Health Information Custodian may charge you a fee, but must first give you an estimate of the fee. At this time, Personal Health Information Privacy Act does not set out the fees that a Health Information Custodian may charge for this purpose; however, the fees must reflect an amount of reasonable cost recovery.

 

What happens if I disagree with what is in my record that I accessed?

  • If you think your record of Personal Health Information is inaccurate or incomplete for the purpose for which the Health Information Custodian has collected; uses or has used the Personal Health Information, you may request, orally or in writing, that a correction be made. The Health Information Custodian has 30 days to respond to your request in writing. The 30 day period may be extended for a further 30 days in certain circumstances. The Health Information Custodian must provide a written notice informing you of the extension of time and the reason for it.
  • If the request is refused, the Health Information Custodian must provide a written notice explaining why the Health Information Custodian will not make a correction to the record. The notice must also inform you of when you are entitled to prepare a statement of disagreement setting out the correction that the Health Information Custodian has refused to make and when you are entitled to complain about the refusal to the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

 

What can I do if my request for a correction is refused?

  • If the request for correction is denied or the Health Information Custodian does not respond to your request within the specified time period, you may make a complaint to the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
  • You may also prepare a concise Statement of Disagreement stating the correction which the Health Information Custodian refused to make. This Statement may be added to the record and provided to anyone accessing related information from your record. You may also ask the Health Information Custodian to provide the Statement to persons to whom the Health Information Custodian had previously disclosed the information related to the correction.

 

What happens if I want to review my record before a Consent and Capacity Board hearing?

  • A party to a hearing before the Consent and Capacity Board has the right to examine and copy any documents that will be used at the hearing. If you wish to examine your record of PHI prior to a hearing, you should speak to the HIC to make the necessary arrangements.

 

How do I contact the Information and Privacy Commissioner to make a complaint?

  • If you have a complaint about how a Health Information Custodian has collected, used or disclosed your Personal Health Information, or about the processing of an access or correction request under Personal Health Information Protection Act, you may contact the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The Information and Privacy Commissioner will provide information regarding the complaint process and your rights under Personal Health Information Protection Act. You may contact their office at:
    • Information and Privacy Commissioner
      • Telephone 416-326-3333 in Toronto or 1-800-387-0073
      • TDD/TYY 416-325-7539

 

Questions?

  • If you have questions contact your local Patient Advocate or Rights Adviser or call the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office at 1-800-578-2343.
   

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