Health practitioners have always been obliged to keep their patient's personal health information confidential in the physician-patient relationship under the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (PHIPA). This Act applies to public-sector organizations (e.g. hospitals), private businesses (e.g. pharmacies, long-term care homes), and health care professionals (e.g. doctors).
What are the main functions of PHIPA? Have you ever questioned whether the personal health information shall always be kept in strict confidentiality. Which condition/circumstance can personal health information be disclosed to the third parties (other than the patient himself)?
Q: What is the definition of Personal health information? (Section 4 of the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004)
a) Relates to the physical or mental health of the individual, including information that consist of health history of the individual's family;
b) Relates to the providing of health care to the individual, including the identification of a person as a provider of health care to the individual;
c) is a plan of service within the meaning of the Long Term Care Act, 1994 for the individual;
d) Relates to payments or eligibility for health care in respect of the individual;
e) Relates to the donation by the individual of any body part or bodily substance;
f) is the individual's health number; OR
g) Identifies an individual's substitute decision-maker.
Q: What are the main functions of PHIPA?
In general, the major function of PHIPA is to keep personal health information confidential and secure in our health care system. This Act also governs the collection, use and disclosure of personal health information within the health sector.
Q: Can the patient give permission to the health practitioner for the disclosure of his or her personal health information?
There are two types of consent, which is implied or express, in relation to disclosing personal health information.
Implied consent means that patient's acceptance of treatment provided by the health practitioner, and his or her permission to share information with others involved within the patient's circle of care, without asking for the patient's consent.
Express consent is required to obtain from the patient, usually in writing, when the disclosure of personal health care outside of the patient's circle of care is involved.
Q: Is there any circumstance when the disclosure of personal health information to the third parties is permitted without the patient's consent?
i) The provision of health care under exceptional circumstance, that it is not reasonably possible to obtain the patient's consent in a timely manner during emergency situation;
ii) The health practitioner believes an individual, on a reasonable ground, that involves a significant risk of serious bodily harm to a person or group of persons;
iii) The disclosure of personal health information is permitted for the purpose of regulating the medical profession under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHIPA); OR
iv) The disclosure of personal health information is also allowed by law, when the provision of medical reports or/and other relevant health information is mandatory in a lawsuit or claim.
Q: Can the health practitioner disclose the patient's personal health information to a family member or friend?
The health practitioner is required to obtain express consent from the patient or the patient substitute decision-maker before disclosing personal health information.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be construed as a legal advice, but strictly for information only in this entire website. Please contact Trustworthy Legal Service for your independent legal advice in your particular situation. The first consultation is also required prior to my retainer of your case.
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