Atma Medical Clinic recognizes the right of our patients, people directing support, their family and friends to confidentiality in principle and practice. The right refers not only to written material kept on file, but also pertains to verbal material given freely by a patient and/or their family, understanding such information would not be repeated. Confidential information includes personnel matters and anything which people, their family and friends deem to be confidential.
Patients and/or their family member must give their written consent before any information, written or verbal can be released to, or obtained from another person or organization. Each Authorization for Release of Confidential information must bear only one specific contact and the employee, patient or guardian’s signature, the date and the signature of a witness.
Confidentiality can only be assured within the confines of legal limitations. No confidentiality can be maintained where there is a suspicion or proof of abuse when subpoenaed by a legal authority or if there is reason to believe someone may be a danger to themselves or others.
We collect personal information for the Identified Purposes outlined in this policy. The type of personal information that we hold depends upon the nature of the patient relationship with Atma Medical Clinic, and may include, but is not limited to:
When a patient is in our clinic, she/he consents to allow us to collect, use and disclose personal information for the following purposes:
When Atma Medical Clinic collects personal information, it is doing so for all of the Identified Purposes simultaneously.
It is important that patients know the Atma Medical Clinic Identified Purposes and provides consent before Atma Medical Clinic staff collects, uses, or discloses personal information. Patients may provide consent in a variety of ways.
Atma Medical Clinic relies on the following actions by patients to indicate their knowledge and consent:
Patients provide implied consent when they voluntarily provide personal information to Atma Medical Clinic directly or through a family physician.
Patients may be asked express consent for a specified purpose.
Atma Medical Clinic and its staff will not disclose patient medical and health information without their express consent, except for medical emergencies and as required by law.
Patients may withdraw consent. In the event that a patient wishes to withdraw consent, Atma Medical Clinic staff are to direct the patient to contact Atma Medical Clinic Privacy Compliance Officer in writing.
Atma Medical Clinic Privacy Compliance Officer
Atma Medical Clinic will work to keep patient and personal information as accurate, complete and up to date as is necessary for all Identified Purposes.
A physician may disclose personal health information about an individual if the physician believes, on reasonable grounds, that the disclosure is necessary to eliminate or reduce a significant risk of serious bodily harm to a person or group of persons. The disclosure may be made to police, and in some instances, to the intended victim(s).
Disclosure of personal health information to the College is permitted for the purposes of administering and enforcing the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHPA). This includes disclosing personal health information for the purpose of carrying out the regulatory duties in the RHPA (i.e., Registrar’s Investigations and Quality Assurance peer assessments).
Employees of Atma Medical Clinic may be required by law, in a variety of circumstances, to disclose personal health information without the consent of the patient.
Certain statutes have reporting provisions that may require the physician to provide information about a patient.
Examples of legislation requiring mandatory reports include the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991; the Highway Traffic Act; the Child and Family Services Act; the Health Protection and Promotion Act; the Aeronautics Act; the Coroners Act and the Health Professions Procedural Code (See College policy on Mandatory Reporting).
In circumstances where the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is monitoring or verifying claims for payment for health care, or for goods used for health care that are funded wholly or in part by the Ministry, the physician must provide the patient’s personal health information to the Minister, upon his or her request.
In the course of litigation, employees of Atma Medical Clinic may be required by a summons, subpoena or a court order to disclose a patient’s personal health information and patient records. The physician should read the summons, subpoena or court order carefully and not do more than it requires.
For example, a summons may require a physician to attend a court at a particular time and to take a specific patient chart. The summons does not authorize the physician to discuss the patient’s care with, or show the record to, anyone in advance of the court appearance.
Under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, a physician who is providing health care to a worker claiming benefits under the workplace’s insurance plan must promptly give the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) the relevant personal health information that the WSIB may require or that the patient requests that the physician provide to the WSIB. PHIPA permits the physician to report the required information to the WSIB and/or the employer, without the patient’s consent. If, however, the physician takes the position that the patient ought to be aware that his or her personal health information is being provided to the WSIB and/or the employer, the physician ought to notify his or her patient of that fact.
Situations may arise where employees of Atma Medical Clinic are asked by a family member or friend about the condition of a patient. Patients are permitted to restrict the disclosure of such information. For this reason, employees of Atma Medical Clinic will be required to obtain express consent from the patient before they are able to disclose the patient’s personal health information.
Where the patient is not capable to provide the required consent, employees of Atma Medical Clinic must seek consent from the patient’s substitute decision-maker. The College, however, recognizes that there may be situations where it will not be possible to obtain consent from the patient or the substitute decision-maker. In this situation, the College advises employees of Atma Medical Clinic to exercise caution and to use their best judgment when providing information. Discussions with friends and family ought to be limited to basic information about the patient’s general state of health.
There may be instances when a physician receives a request to disclose personal health information to a patient’s parents or a third party where the parents have separated or divorced. If the child-patient has the capacity to provide consent, the physician must first seek the consent of the patient before any disclosure is made.
In dealing with requests from parents to disclose information to the parent or a third party, employees of Atma Medical Clinic should be aware that, under provincial legislation, there are different rights for the custodial parent and the noncustodial/ access parent. The law, a court order or the terms of a separation agreement may prevent one of the parents from making decisions with respect to the personal health information about their child. Employees of Atma Medical Clinic are advised to act with sensitivity and request a copy of the applicable separation agreement or court order prior to releasing any information.
It is not mandatory for employees of Atma Medical Clinic to provide confidential material to the police in the absence of a legal obligation. At these times, the general rules regarding consent and disclosure apply, meaning that expressed consent, either from the patient directly, or the substitute decision-maker, will be required before the police are provided with personal health information. All matters regarding the release of patient information are to be referred to Director of Operations or designate.
When personal health information is authorized to be disclosed to the police, employees of Atma Medical Clinic are encouraged to record the officer’s name and badge number, the request for information, the information provided, and the authority for the disclosure (e.g., consent, reporting obligation, search warrant or summons). A photocopy of any search warrant or summons should be included in the patient’s medical record. The police or Crown attorney will usually take the originals but leave the physician with copies of the record so that ongoing care can be given.
Technology has provided employees of Atma Medical Clinic and patients alike with a more efficient way of maintaining and communicating personal health information. There are, however, several ways in which an Atma Medical Clinic staff using communications technology may inadvertently breach patient confidentiality, (e.g. wireless network connections) can pose security problems; e-mails can be inadvertently sent to the wrong recipient; inappropriate readers may access computer files and erased hard drives may contain private information.
It is strongly advised that employees of Atma Medical Clinic obtain patient consent to use of electronic means for communicating personal health information. As part of obtaining consent, employees of Atma Medial Clinic must explain to patients the inherent risks of using this form of communication. As a way of recording the patient’s express consent, a written consent form should be used whenever possible. Completed consent forms will be included in the patient’s medical record.
Employees of Atma Medical Clinic may sometimes wish to communicate with patients by telephone; and should confirm and obtain consent to use this method of communication with patients. On certain occasions, it may be necessary to leave a voice message on a machine or with a third party. While it is acceptable for messages to contain the name and contact information of the physician or the physician’s office, it is strongly advised that messages should not contain any personal health information of the patient, such as details about the patient’s medical condition, test results or other personal matters.
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