In Ontario we all have a right to confidentiality and privacy for our personal health information. Several Ontario laws govern this, but the bottom line is that, with a few exceptions, it should be up to each person to decide who gets to share it. Privacy is about the collection and safeguarding of information, and confidentiality is about when or when not to share it.
Under The Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) I am only to collect information from you that is relevant to our work together, and I am to keep it in a secure manner. I still keep clinical notes on paper (!) that are filed in a locked cabinet, in a building with deadbolt locks and ADT security. As long as I have your records you have a right to read them, and to have me correct errors of fact.
For assessment purposes I sometimes work with Greenspace, an electronic assessment service that provides assessment feedback to the client who filled it out, and to me, so that we both can track progress. Greenspace is also required to fulfill all obligations under PHIPA.
Video sessions also need to be done securely – I currently am using doxy.me, a video platform that meets PHIPA standards for our electronic video and audio connection. While nothing is 100% secure this platform meets PHIPA’s high standards and allows us to see each other without risking COVID, and without you taking the time to travel to and from appointments.
I am required to retain your records for ten years after our last contact. When the ten years are up I personally cross-shred them before disposing of them.
You are welcome to give me permission to talk to someone – perhaps your family doctor or rehab specialist or family member. I do not do this without your permission except where ethically or legally required to do so:
- If you are having an urge to harm yourself or someone else I will talk with you about this, but if at the end of our conversation I was really concerned about you or someone else’s well being I have an ethical obligation to contact the appropriate person or agency to keep you safe.
- I have an obligation to report if I think a child is at risk of neglect or abuse, and if I think a person in a retirement home or long-term care facility is being neglected or abused.
- I can be subpoenaed when a judge rules my records are relevant to a trial, so that I must show up in court with the file (I can object when I get there but can be over-ruled). I can also be required by a judge to provide contact information in a missing person’s case.
- I am a member of the College of Psychologists of Ontario which conducts random practice audits of members each year. If I were selected for an audit two other psychologists would come to my office to review my current files, billing practices and so on. This is for quality control, for the benefit of the public. The psychologists undertaking the audit would also be obliged to keep personal health information confidential.
- If someone tells me the name of a regulated health professional who has crossed the line sexually with their client or patient I must report the professional to their regulatory College. I ask permission from the person who told me to pass along their name too, but they have the right to remain anonymous.
Do you have a question?
I would be happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have.
If you have questions about the privacy act I can’t answer, or if you wish to lay a complaint you may contact the
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario
2 Bloor St. East
1 416 326 3333 or 1 800 387 0073
TDD/TTY 1 416 325 7539
Fax: 1 416 325 9195
If you have a concern about my professionalism or competence I would like to discuss this with you. If I cannot satisfy your concerns you can contact my regulatory body:
The College of Psychologists of Ontario
110 Eglinton West
1 416 961 8817 or 1 800 489 8388
Fax: 1 416 961 2635
613 798 3932