All staff, students, volunteers, consultants, and agents of Vanier are required to protect the privacy of Vanier clients throughout and following their association with Vanier. The identity of clients, their family members, and any other information obtained while providing service cannot usually be revealed to any individual or organization unless informed consent of the client (or guardian) is obtained and documented. In some special circumstances, a staff member is required to reveal information without consent (e.g., where there is risk of serious bodily harm to the client or others; when required by legislation or regulations; child abuse or neglect; subpoena). Limits to confidentiality are discussed with clients at the earliest opportunity. Vanier provides service based on a team model, and staff members potentially have access to information regarding any clients receiving service. Clients may ask for staff access to their clinical files to be limited.
Anyone with a concern regarding privacy or confidentiality can contact either Vanier’s Privacy Officer or the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.
Vanier Privacy Officer
Dr. Jeff Carter, Psychologist
Director of Quality Improvement
Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario
2 Bloor Street East, Suite 1400 34
Toronto, Ontario M4W 1A8
1 (800) 387-0073 (within Ontario)
TDD/TTY: (416) 325-7539
FAX: (416) 325-9195
Ontario’s Privacy Law
The Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) came into effect on November 1, 2004. This law clarifies and standardizes the privacy rules surrounding the collection, use and disclosure of your health information. It covers all information about your health or health history, including your Ontario Health Card number, personal and family medical history, doctor’s notes, diagnoses, prescriptions, and so on. It applies to all health care providers (“Health Information Custodians”) – including mental health care providers, such as Vanier Children’s Services – as well as to anyone who works for a Health Information Custodian.
Privacy and quality care. Whenever a doctor, nurse, psychotherapist, or other health care provider (including any Vanier staff) collects records or uses your health information, their goal is to provide you with the best possible care. The privacy law tries to strike a balance between ensuring that your health information is protected and ensuring that the people providing care have all of the information and support that they need.
Your information is always considered sensitive and is only available to people who have a legitimate need to see it. In general, only health care providers who are involved in your care, their managers, and support staff (e.g., administrative assistants, data analysts, and information system technicians) are allowed to see health information.
Express consent. Health care providers are not allowed to give your personal health information to people who do not provide you with health care, unless you specifically give them your permission. For example, Vanier staff must have your permission to share information with your child’s school or teacher. This is called “express consent”.
Implied consent. Your information can sometimes be used without your explicit consent. The law allows health care providers to collect and share your personal health information when we believe that you want us to, based on the circumstances. For example, we would not interrupt you when you call the Crisis and Intake Team to ask for consent to talk to you. This is called “implied consent” and is meant to lower the barriers to effective health care.
Sometimes, you can decide whether Vanier can use your information for other purposes. Vanier sometimes participates in certain research projects (approved by a Research Ethics Board) that look at information already on file. You can tell us not to use your information for this purpose. During the agency accreditation process, site visitors from other agencies review files to ensure that Vanier meets standards. You can tell us not to use your information for this purpose.
Health Care Custodian Obligations
- Have a written statement about our information and privacy practices available.
- Collect only the information that is necessary and relevant to your care.
- Tell you how the information will be used when we collect it and only use the information for that purpose.
- Ensure our record information is accurate and correct it, if necessary.
- Have safeguards in place to ensure your health information is secure and that only those involved in your care can see it. Safeguards include secure storage of records; computer systems password protection, and clear practices for staff to follow.
- Ask for your express consent to use or share information when necessary
- Let you know if your health information is lost, stolen, or accessed by someone who should not have seen it.
- Designate a contact person that you can speak to if you have questions about the privacy of your health information.
- You can read or get copies of your health records at any time, although you may need to pay a fee to copy them.
- You cannot remove or change information in your file; however, if your health record is inaccurate, you can ask to have it corrected or to have a note added if you disagreed with an opinion.
- You can decide who can and cannot see your health information, and can withdraw your consent to have others see this information at any time.
- You can put your record in a “lock box”, meaning you can make your file visible to only certain people.
- Parents are the decision-makers for their children until their children are capable of making decisions for themselves. Note that if one parent has custody of the child, the other parent can usually make information decisions for the child only if the custodial parent is not available; details and exceptions would be spelled out in the separation agreement.
- You can make a complaint about how your health information is collected, stored, or used by contacting the Privacy Officer or the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.
Your Child’s Rights
This law applies equally to children and adults. This means that as long as they are capable of making the decision, children have all the rights listed above, including, if they wish, the right to request their parents do not see their health information.
There is no specific age at which children are considered capable of consent. To be considered capable, the child must be able to understand what is involved in collecting, using and sharing health information, and must be able to appreciate what might happen if they refuse consent. Children can understand some of these aspects at quite a young age and, in general, they should become more involved in discussions about their health care as they grow older.