Changes to Ontario’s Personal Health Information Protection Act: Clarity for Health Teams?
On April 14, 2022, Ontario Bill 106, Pandemic and Emergency Civil Protection Act, 2022 (Bill 106) received Royal Assent. According to the Ontario government, the purpose of Bill 106 is to “prepare Ontario for future pandemics and threats.” Bill 106 seeks to achieve its stated purpose, in part, by introducing changes to the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (PHIPA) that will facilitate the sharing of personal health information in electronic and other forms.
PHIPA governs the collection, use and disclosure of personal health information within the provincial health sector, including by health information custodians, individuals and organizations that receive personal health information. health of depositaries. PHIPA also provides individuals with rights relating to their personal health information, including the right to access a copy of an individual’s personal health information that is in the custody or under the control of a custodian (under subject to limited exceptions).
Summary of PHIPA Amendments
Bill 106 proposes two key changes to PHIPA:
- Alternative formats for electronic records: PHIPA’s existing individual right of access provisions expressly include the right of an individual to access a record of personal health information in an electronic format that meets prescribed requirements and restrictions (none of which were prescribed on the date of this bulletin). Bill 106 will amend PHIPA to allow the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (the Agency) to specify electronic formats for providing access, including requirements, conditions, restrictions or exceptions that the Agency may impose at its discretion..
- New rules for Ontario Health Teams: In 2019, the Ontario government sought to revolutionize the delivery of health care in the province by introducing Ontario Health Teams, groups of health care providers and organizations specifically authorized by the Ministry of Health and of Long-Term Care (the ministry) to be clinically and financially responsible for providing a comprehensive and coordinated continuum of care to a defined geographic population. Bill 106 will amend PHIPA to give the ministry new powers to make regulations regarding the collection, use and disclosure of personal health information by Ontario Health Teams.. Bill 106 provides that the ministry’s regulations, once enacted, will improve the ability of Ontario Health Teams to handle personal health information and thereby help Ontario Health Teams plan, implement and improve the delivery of care. health.
If Bill 106 is enacted, health information custodians and others subject to PHIPA should pay attention to the new regulations enacted under PHIPA.
Of particular interest are the new regulatory powers for Ontario Health Teams. Currently, PHIPA allows health information custodians of an Ontario Health Team to disclose personal health information to each other on the basis of implied consent under the “circle of care” provisions of PHIPA. Because the circle of care only applies to health information custodians, members of Ontario Health Teams who are not health information custodians (such as community housing providers) face problems with participation in the circle of care. New regulations could provide welcome clarity for information sharing among all members of the Ontario Health Team.