I am committed to respecting and protecting your privacy. This statement outlines my policies and procedures regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of your personal health information. It also provides information about how you can access records and request correction of recorded information.
The practice of psychology in Ontario is regulated under the provincial Regulated Health Professions Act. As such, all identifiable information collected by a psychologist during their practice of psychology is considered “personal health information” under the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (PHIPA). This includes your name and contact information, as well as information collected/recorded during provision of services to you.
Collection of Your Personal Health Information
By law and in accordance with professional standards, I am required to keep a record of services provided to and contacts with you. Your record includes information you provide or authorize me to receive, results of any assessments, your service plan, consent forms, contact notes, progress summaries, dates of appointments, billing information, and correspondence that I have sent or received related to your service. The physical or electronic records are the property of my practice. However, you have rights regarding access to your record and regarding disclosure of information from your record regardless of the form in which the information is recorded (see below).
I collect only the information I believe is needed to provide you with the services you have requested and/or for which you have been referred, to maintain contact with you for service-related or future consent purposes, or to prevent or offset harm (e.g., asking for an emergency contact). I collect your personal health information only directly from you except when you have provided consent to obtain such information from others (for example reports of previous assessments or of other services) or where the law requires or allows us to collect information without your consent (for example in an urgent situation when information is needed to prevent potential harm).
Use of Your Personal Health Information
In my office the primary use of your personal health information is to provide services to you. This includes all the functions reasonably necessary to provide those services (e.g., service planning and monitoring, maintaining your record, billing, etc.). I may involve other individuals who in the course of their duties have limited access to your personal information, namely computer consultants, bookkeepers and accountants, and credit card companies/banks. All staff who come in contact with your personal information are trained in the need for privacy and confidentiality, as well as in my practice’s privacy policies and procedures, including prevention of record loss and unauthorized access. These individuals are only allowed to access the information needed to carry out their function. In the event personnel know a client personally they are required to declare this and remove themselves from access to that client’s record unless there is an emergency, or the client has given express consent for access.
On occasion I may communicate with you via email or telephone if you have given me consent to do so, and such communication becomes part of your personal health information record. Email and phone contact are not secure means of communication, so I will avoid communication that involves you personal health information unless you request that such information be part of such communication. For instance, if you request an electronic copy of a letter or report, I will forward it to you, and encrypt the document with a password. Paper information and electronic hardware are always either under supervision or secured in restricted areas. I use the Jane Practice Management software, and their privacy statement can be accessed at https://jane.app/privacy
Disclosure of Your Personal Health Information
With only a few exceptions, your personal health information will not be disclosed to persons outside this office without your knowledge and express consent. The exceptions in which disclosure is allowed by law include:
(a) If there are reasonable grounds to believe information need to be disclosed to eliminate or reduce a significant risk of serious bodily harm to the client, another individual, or group of persons
(b) When disclosure is needed to receive professional or legal consultation
(c) If there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a child age 16 or under is at risk of abuse or neglect
(d) For mandatory reporting of a regulated health professional who has sexually abused a client
(e) If there are reasonable grounds to suspect the abuse or neglect of an individual living in a Long-Term Care facility or Retirement home
(f) In compliance with a court order to release information from a record
(g) To comply with professional regulations established by the College of Psychologists of Ontario, who may inspect records and interview staff as a part of their regulatory activities (e.g., quality assurance) in the public interest
(h) To comply with regulatory authorities under the terms of the Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA) for the purposes of the College of Psychology of Ontario for fulfilling their respective mandates under the RHPA, as well as for a defence of a legal issue
(i) To insurance companies, employee assistance programs, credit card companies or other third-party payers as needed, who often have your consent or legislative authority to direct us to collect and disclose to them certain information in order to demonstrate your entitlement to this funding and to answer questions about our services you have received
When consenting to the disclosure of your personal health information to another health professional who is providing services to you, for instance your physician, you may restrict us from sharing all or any part of your personal information. However, if in our opinion the information is reasonably necessary for another health service provider to provide appropriate service, we are required by law to inform the other provider that you have refused consent to provide some needed information.
Retention and Disposal of Personal Information
I are required by legislation and our regulatory body to retain personal information for no less than 10 years after last contact with a client, and in the case of children, 10 years after the child turns 18. Beyond that time, paper records will be shredded and electronic records will be permanently disposed of.
Your Right of Access to your Personal Health Information Record
With only a few exceptions, you have the right to access any record of your personal health information, and to request copies of the information. If the physical record contains personal health information about another individual, that individual’s information must be able to be severed from the record before you may access the record, and I will charge a fee for the time spent removing this information. Other exceptions include access to copyrighted psychological test information (test items, protocols, manuals), information provided in confidence by a third party, and information that could result in serious harm to someone’s treatment or recovery, or in serious bodily harm to someone.
If you are the custodial parent or guardian of a child receiving service, you may not access (without the child’s consent) the personal health information of a child, who was deemed competent and who consented to the service on his/her own. In addition, there are restrictions on custodial parents/guardians access to individual therapy notes regarding their children.
If you request your personal file:
I may need to confirm your identity before providing you with this access, especially if you have not received service for some time. I reserve the right to charge a nominal fee for such requests, including the cost of retrieving your file from storage and separating out your information from those of other affected parties. If I cannot give you access, we will tell you within 14 days and explain why not.
If you believe there is a mistake in the factual information in your file, you have the right to ask for it to be corrected, however this does not apply to any professional opinions I may have formed. I may ask you to provide documentation that my files are wrong. Where we agree there is an error, I will make the correction and notify anyone to whom I have sent the incorrect information. If we do not agree that I have made a factual error, you may provide a notice of disagreement which will then be included in the file, and I will forward that notice to anyone else who received the earlier information.
Concerns and Further Information
Further details of the applicable laws, regulations, and standards may be found at the Websites of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (www.health.gov.on.ca), the College of Psychologists of Ontario (www.cpo.on.ca), the Canadian Psychological Association (www.cpa.ca), and the Personal Health Information Protection Act (www.ipc.on.ca).
For more general inquiries, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario oversees the administration of the privacy legislation in the private sector. The Commissioner can be reached at:
80 Bloor Street West, Suite 1700, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2V1
Phone (416) 326-3333 www.ipc.on.ca
The College of Psychologists of Ontario can be reached at:
110 Eglinton Avenue West, Suite 500, Toronto, Ontario M4R 1A3
Phone (416) 961-8817 www.cpo.on.ca