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Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA)

Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA)

“Personal health information” is identifying information about an individual student which pertains to health care, including information about a student’s physical or mental health, receipt of health care services and health number. The Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) establishes rules for the collection, use and disclosure of personal health information in a broad range of circumstances. When the Upper Canada District School Board collects student personal health information (i.e. conducts speech and language or psychological assessments to support a student’s educational program), it follows the rules in PHIPA.

The legislation balances individuals' right to privacy with respect to their own personal health information with the legitimate needs of persons and organizations who provide health care services to access and share this information. It sets out rules for the collection, use and disclosure of personal health information which apply to all "Health Information Custodians" operating within the province of Ontario and to individuals and organizations who receive personal health information from those authorized to collect and use it. The rules recognize the unique character of personal health information as one of the most sensitive types of personal information that is frequently shared.

Collection and Use of Personal Health Information
With limited exceptions, the legislation requires health information custodians to obtain consent before they collect, use or disclose personal health information. They must take reasonable steps to safeguard and protect personal health information and ensure that medical records are retained, stored, transferred and disposed of in a safe and secure manner.

Health Information Custodians are required to notify an individual if his/her personal information is lost, stolen or accessed by an unauthorized individual or organization.

Knowledgeable consent is required for the collection, use and disclosure of personal health information relating to any student of the Upper Canada District School Board.  Consent is considered to be "knowledgeable" if the person knows what information is being collected, how it will be used, where and for how long it will be stored, under what circumstances will it be disclosed, for what period of time the consent is valid and how it can be withdrawn.

The Act is clear that a capable person, regardless of age, may consent to the collection, use and disclosure of his/her personal health information.  In other words, where a person has the ability to understand the information that is relevant to deciding whether to consent, and has the ability to appreciate reasonable consequences of giving, not giving, or withdrawing consent, that person is the one from whom consent is sought.  However, it is still prudent to obtain written, informed consent from the parents/legal guardians of a student, particularly those under the age of 16.

Others may also consent on that person's behalf. For example, anyone over the age of 16 that the person has authorized to act on his/her behalf, a parent if the person is under the age of 16, or a substitute decision-maker if the person is incapable of consenting (as determined by a Consent and capacity Board) may consent of that person's behalf.

PHIPA requires that the Board provide written information describing the practices of the Health Information Custodian.

Important Definitions

"Health Care"
Health care is defined as any observation, examination, assessment, care, service or procedure that is done for a health-related purpose and that is provided to treat or maintain an individual's physical or mental condition, prevent disease or injury, or to promote health.

"Health Information Custodian"
The legislation applies to all health care practitioners, including those defined under the Regulated Health Professions Act (psychologists, psychological associates, and speech-language pathologists), members of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (social workers and attendance counsellors), and those people "whose primary function is to provide health care for payment".  In other words, all non-teaching Student Services staff of the Upper Canada District School Board are considered to be Health Information Custodians as defined by the Act.

District school boards, teachers and other employees within the Board are considered "agents" regarding the use of health information. An agent is a person who, with the authorization of the Health Information Custodian, acts for, or on their behalf.  Agents are not permitted to collect, use or disclose personal health information unless permitted to do so by the Custodian.

For more information, contact:
The Information and Records Management Office
225 Central Avenue, West, Brockville, ON K6V 5X1
1-800-267-7131 or locally 613-342-0371 Ext. 1396

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