The provincial government is introducing legislation today that, if passed, would improve privacy, accountability and transparency in the health care system with new measures that put patients first, announced David Orazietti, MPP.
“Ontarians need to know when checking into a hospital or visiting their local physician that their information and medical records will remain private,” said Orazietti. “Our government is introducing amendments that, if passed, will keep Ontario at the forefront of protecting the privacy of health records and we are also introducing an improved Quality of Care Information Protection Act so patients and their families are kept informed during an investigation into a critical incident.”
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.
“As the health-care sector transitions to shared electronic health records, the privacy of patients and the confidentiality of their personal health information must be protected to ensure public confidence,” said Brian Beamish, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. “I am pleased that the government is moving forward with necessary amendments to Ontario’s health privacy legislation, which were developed in consultation with my office. The introduction of mandatory breach reporting to my office and strengthening the consequences for those who violate patient privacy will bring increased accountability and transparency as well as instill trust in the health system.”
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.
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.