More Protection for Patient Privacy in Ontario

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Patient Privacy in Ontario

Ontario is strengthening privacy, accountability and transparency in the health care system

Ontario intends to introduce legislation today that, if passed, would improve privacy, accountability and transparency in the health care system with new measures that put patients first.

The Health Information Protection Act would amend existing legislation to protect the personal health information of patients. Some of these changes would include:

  • Making it mandatory to report privacy breaches, as defined in regulation, to the Information and Privacy Commissioner and to relevant regulatory colleges.
  • Strengthening the process to prosecute offences under the Personal Health Information Protection Act by removing the requirement that prosecutions must be commenced within six months of when the alleged offence occurred.
  • Doubling the maximum fines for offences from $50,000 to $100,000 for individuals and from $250,000 to $500,000 for organizations.

The Health Information Protection Act would also update the Quality of Care Information Protection Act (QCIPA) to help increase transparency and maintain quality in Ontario’s health care system. If passed, this new bill would:

  • Affirm the rights of patients to access information about their own health care.
  • Clarify that certain information and facts about critical incidents cannot be withheld from affected patients and their families.
  • Require the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care to review QCIPA every five years.

Ontario is also carrying out other recommendations made by an expert committee that reviewed QCIPA to improve transparency in critical incidents. These include ensuring patients or their representatives are interviewed as part of a critical incident investigation, and are informed of the cause of the incident, if known.

Protecting patient privacy and strengthening transparency is part of the government’s plan to build a better Ontario through its Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care, which is providing patients with faster access to the right care, better home and community care, the information they need to stay healthy and a health care system that’s sustainable for generations to come.

Quick Facts

  • If passed, the Health Information Protection Act would ensure that Ontario maintains its position as a leader in health information privacy protection.
  • QCIPA allows health care professionals in certain settings to share information and have discussions about improving patient care. The Act can be used when there is a critical incident or other matter that may affect the quality of care delivered.
  • QCIPA currently applies to public and private hospitals, independent health facilities, long-term care homes, medical labs, specimen collection centers and psychiatric facilities.

Additional Resources

  • Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004
  • Electronic Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2013
  • Quality of Care Information Protection Act, 2004

Protecting Patient Privacy in Ontario

On June 10, 2015, Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Dr. Eric Hoskins, announced the government’s intent to strengthen privacy rules that protect the personal health information of individuals.

The Health Information Protection Act, 2015 would, if passed, make a number of amendments to the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004, (PHIPA) and the following Acts:

  • Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991
  • Drug Interchangeability and Dispensing Fee Act
  • Narcotics Safety and Awareness Act, 2010.

These amendments would strengthen the protection of health information privacy, and increase transparency and accountability in Ontario’s health care system. They would also create a strong foundation for the secure sharing of patients’ personal health information in the Electronic Health Record–a provincewide system that allows health records to be shared between health care providers. The amendments would specifically:

  • Make it mandatory to report privacy breaches, as defined in regulation, to the Information and Privacy Commissioner and to relevant regulatory colleges.
  • Strengthen the process to prosecute offences under PHIPA by removing the requirement that prosecutions must be commenced within six months of when the alleged offence occurred.
  • Create stronger deterrents against the unauthorized collection, use or disclosure of personal health information by doubling the maximum fines for offences under PHIPA from $50,000 to $100,000 for individuals, and from $250,000 to $500,000 for an organization.
  • Re-introduce and update the Electronic Health Record privacy framework initially introduced in the Electronic Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2013 (ePHIPA) and as endorsed by the Information and Privacy Commissioner. ePHIPA reached second reading but had not passed when the legislature was dissolved on May 2, 2014.
  • Allow the ministry to disclose information about a patient’s narcotics and monitored drug prescriptions to their health care practitioner.

Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, September 16, 2015

Sources:

  • https://news.ontario.ca/mohltc/en/2015/09/protecting-patient-privacy.html
  • https://news.ontario.ca/mohltc/en/2015/09/ontario-taking-action-to-protect-patient-privacy-and-improve-transparency.html
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