Privacy of Personal Health Information - Frequently Asked Questions
How do I access or request a copy of my health records?
While you are actively receiving care, you should ask your healthcare provider for information that you want to know about your diagnosis and treatment. After you are discharged from MICs, you will need to submit a written request to the hospital where you were treated: Bingham Memorial Hospital (Matheson), Anson General Hospital (Iroquois Falls), or Lady Minto Hospital (Cochrane). The letter should be addressed to the Health Records Department. You may also obtain a "Release of Information" form from any MICs Health Records Department.
What should the request include?
A written request for health records must include your name, date of birth, mailing address, and the type of information you need. The request must be dated, signed with your signature, and witnessed and signed by one other person.
Will the hospital have all my records on file?
MICs retains and manages patient records according to government legislation and the corporation by-laws. This means the hospital may only maintain some of your records.
What happens if I want my records released to another individual?
Whether you want your records released to a relative, friend, family doctor or another institution, you must submit a signed consent giving the hospital authorization to release your information. The consent is valid for six months and must be dated and witnessed.
Does a youth under the age of 16 need parental consent?
Children of any age are presumed to have the capacity to consent to the collection, use and disclosure of their personal health information. If there is a conflict between the child and parent, the capable child's decision prevails with respect to the consent. To be capable of consenting, a patient must be able to understand:
- The information needed to make a decision on whether or not to consent to the collection, use or disclosure of personal health information; and
- The consequences of giving, withholding or withdrawing consent.
What happens if I am inquiring about records for a deceased patient?
To obtain records for individuals who are deceased or incapable of signing a consent, proof of executorship, or legal signing authority must be submitted with the request.
How do I go about requesting birth information?
If you are looking for your birth information (eg. proof of birth, time of birth) please submit a written request that includes your mother's full name at the time of your birth.
Does it cost me anything to request my personal health information?
There are processing fees associated with accessing (viewing) or requesting a photocopy of your personal health information. A prepayment fee must be submitted before accessing or receiving a copy of your personal health information. Please contact the Health Records Department for a Fee Schedule. You have a right to access your personal health record and MICs has an obligation to make it available to you with limited exceptions: if releasing your information would put yourself or a third-party at risk, the hospital may choose not to disclose some or all of that information.
What information does MICs collect?
MICs collects both personal and health information. Information like your name, date of birth, address, Health Card Number and extended health insurance numbers are examples of personal information. Information relating to previous health problems, the record of your visits to the hospital and what health care we provide to you during those visits are examples of your health information.
Why does MICs need this information?
The information MICs collects from you is used:
- To provide you with quality health care and follow-up in the community. We need your information to make sure we can make the appropriate diagnosis and provide treatment;
- To carry out quality assurance to help make us better. By reviewing the care we provide to patients we can determine what strategies are most successful.
- To ask you how we are doing. You may be asked to participate in surveys by either the hospital or by specific programs or departments in the hospital that participated in your care;
- To comply with the law. The law requires hospitals to turn over your personal health information if there is a legal investigation. We also use your information to obtain funding for health services from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care; and
- For fundraising. Currently MICs does not use your personal health information to contact you to ask if you would like to make a donation. Should MICs fundraise in this manner in the future, you may request your name be removed from the fundraising contact list at any time.
Can I request that MICs not collect or use my health information for any of the following purposes: the delivery of direct patient care, statistics, the administration of the health care system, meeting legal and regulatory requirements or surveys?
Surveys help the hospital by allowing us to get your opinion on the care and services you receive as a patient. Participation in the surveys is not mandatory and you can decline participation and/or request to be removed from the hospital's survey list. The collection, uses, disclosures and retentions described above are required as an ongoing component of MICs Group of Health Services' ability to provide health care to the population it serves, while working to enhance the health status of Canadians.
Will MICs disclose my health information to outside companies or to my employer?
MICs requires a patient's expressed consent or a court order to disclose health information to any organization or person not directly involved with your care (Circle of Care). "Circle of Care" is a term used to describe those who provide health care or assist in providing health care to you. They can provide health care to you confidently assuming they have your implied consent, unless you have expressly withheld or withdrawn consent.
Where is my health information stored and for how long?
Hospitals are required to keep health records for at least 10 years past the date of the last admission. In some cases, for example, health records for children are kept for 10 years after the child's 18th birthday. Health information is stored and maintained by the Health Records Departments.
Can my family see my health information?
Although you have the right to access your health records, this right does not automatically extend to family members and/or friends. If you consent to let a friend or family member see your record, then the friend/family member may access the part(s) that you have consented to let them see.
What if I am unable to give consent to release my health information?
If you are unable to give consent for a friend or family member to access your health information due to reasons such as competency or consciousness, the consent decision falls to the appointed substitute decision-maker, such as a spouse, parent or guardian. This person is bound by law to act on your behalf and must make decisions based on their belief of what you would wish done if you were able to decide.
Will my family and friends be able to call in to get information about me over the telephone?
When someone calls the hospital, staff has no way to verify who is calling and what their relationship is to you. Therefore, in order to protect patient privacy, only a minimum amount of information is given out over the telephone.
Can all hospital staff access my health information?
Only staff involved in your care may access your health information. All MICs staff are bound by a confidentiality policy which is a condition of employment. This policy seeks to ensure that staff only access information on a "need to know basis". Health professionals are also bound by confidentiality requirements from their professional Colleges.
I have noticed that many areas of the hospital are open and I can sometimes overhear staff talking to patients and family about health information. Is this not a breach of patient privacy?
Despite the pressures of an acute-care hospital setting, staff make every effort to discuss health information confidentially.
How is my health information protected?
Health information is protected 3 ways:
- Physical Safeguards - MICs has a number of physical safeguards which range from locked doors to staff wearing name identification tags to identify themselves as MICs employees.
- Technical Safeguards - I.T. upgrades the security capabilities of the patient information system on an ongoing basis. The MICs patient information system also uses passwords to protect the system from inappropriate accesses from within and a firewall to protect our system from users on the Internet.