Ontario Taking Action to Protect Patient Privacy and Improve Transparency
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.
- 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.
“People in Ontario deserve to know that they are protected by a health care system that is accountable, transparent and keeps their personal health information private. Our government is introducing amendments that, if passed, will keep Ontario at the forefront of protecting the privacy of health records. We are also introducing an improved Quality of Care Information Protection Act so that patients and their families will be kept informed and will have their voices heard during an investigation into a critical incident.”
Dr. Eric Hoskins
“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. 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.”
“Patients and their families play an important role when it comes to improving the quality of care in Ontario. They expect to be respected, heard and informed, especially during reviews of critical incidents that have directly affected them. Ontario's decision to carry out the recommendations of the QCIPA Review Panel is a significant step towards creating a healthcare system that is accountable, transparent and delivers the highest quality care.”
“I applaud the government’s decision to accept the QCIPA Review Panel’s recommendations. This will help promote a culture of continuous improvement in health care facilities across the province, and will better inform patients and their families who have been affected by critical incidents.”