Privacy, transparency boost to Ontario health care system

Tthe Health Information Protection Act (HIPA) passed its third reading in the Ontario legislature on Thursday. The Act introduces new measures that put patients first by improving privacy, accountability and transparency in the health care

The Act will amend existing legislation to protect the personal health information of patients, including:

  • Making it mandatory to report privacy breaches, as defined in regulation, to the Information and Privacy Commissioner and, in certain circumstances, 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 privacy offences from $50,000 to $100,000 for individuals and from $250,000 to $500,000 for organizations.

The Health Information Protection Act will, once proclaimed, also update the Quality of Care Information Protection Act (QCIPA) to increase transparency and maintain quality in Ontario’s health care system by:

  • Affirming the rights of patients to access information about their own health care
  • Clarifying that facts about critical incidents cannot be withheld from affected patients and their families
  • Requiring the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care to review QCIPA every five years.

Ontario is also working to implement all recommendations made by the expert committee that reviewed the Quality of Care Information Protection Act to improve transparency in critical incidents. These include bringing forward a proposal to ensure patients or their representatives are interviewed as part of a critical incident investigation, and are informed of the cause of the incident, if known.

In a news release in Toronto, the government said that

  • The expert committee that reviewed QCIPA undertook extensive research and interviewed more than 60 health care professionals, patients and their family members who had experience with critical incidents or service quality issues in hospitals.
  • QCIPA currently applies to public and private hospitals, independent health facilities, long-term care homes, medical labs, specimen collection centers and psychiatric facilities.
  • The purpose of QCIPA is to enable health care providers to have protected quality improvement discussions, including discussions about critical incidents, in order to help improve patient safety and ensure such incidents are not repeated in the future, while still ensuring that patients and their authorized representatives have access to the facts about the incident.
  • Ontario has appointed its first-ever Patient Ombudsman, Christine Elliott, who will help meet the needs of patients who have not had their concerns resolved through existing complaint mechanisms. – CINEWS

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