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Health Privacy Update: What happens if you lose a patient record?

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The Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario has issued a new health privacy Decision 86.

A woman contacted a hospital to have access to her deceased son’s health records.   The hospital provided part of the record but notified the requester that part of the paper record was missing.

The requester made a complaint to the IPC.

During mediation, the hospital issued an apology for losing the records and explained how in response to discovering the loss they had followed their breach management protocol. The files were believed to be permanently lost – but there was no reason to believe they were improperly accessed or disclosed. They were likely lost as part of the scanning process from their paper record system to their electronic health records.

The IPC decided not to review the complaint because the IPC found the hospital had adequately:

  • Searched for the records
  • Fulfilled its information management practices
  • Followed its privacy breach protocol
  • Notified the complainant and the IPC of the lost
    records
  • Updated its practices to prevent future similar incidents
  • Consulted with its third party vendor
    responsible for scanning paper records to prevent future similar incidents

Bottom Line: Health information custodians, like hospitals, primary care teams, long-term care homes, pharmacies and community agencies, must protect your health records. You have to take reasonable steps to securely transfer, scan and retain your health records. And…mistakes happen. Your organization may lose records. If you do, you must take steps to address the possible privacy breach that arises. You must notify the affected people. The IPC’s safeguards standard is not a standard of perfection – but you do have to be privacy respectful and diligent in your scanning, storing and transferring records practices.

Next Steps: If you are a health Privacy Officer, and you are looking for a summary of all the IPC’s health privacy decisions, register here for a free download of all of them.

If you are ready to continue on your privacy journey, join me for Privacy Officer training starting April 30 or Advanced Privacy Officer training on June 18th.


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Some of Kate’s recent and upcoming events

Team Privacy Training Events

September 17, September 24, October 16, October 24 and November 21

For Primary Care clinics, Children’s Aid and FHTs

Kate trains health professionals from many more primary care organizations how being privacy-respectful can improve therapeutic relationships. more details...

Speaking event

October 23, 2019

Osgoode Professional Development – Mental health Certificate

Kate joins the faculty for this training event. More details...

Primary care webinars: Contracts & Communications

September 5 and October 3, 2019, 12 noon

Part of Kate’s monthly webinar series.

Our September webinar is about understanding contracts you may be asked to sign, and in Octber our title is Managing incapacity in the workplace.

Full details of the 2019 webinar series and registration here.

Privacy Officer training

January 20 & 27 and February 3,10 & 18, 2020

Kate is the program chair for the Osgoode Certificate in Privacy in Healthcare.

This program explores the range of privacy interests that must be protected in the day-to-day treatment of patients, the development of information systems and the creation of institutional policies.More details ...

Advanced Privacy Officer training

December 10, 2019

For experienced Privacy Officers within healthcare organisations.

This one day training course focuses on how to handle difficult privacy situations using real-life (but anonymized) case studies and role-play. Full details and registration here...

Free healthcare privacy webinar - ask me anything!

August 7 and September 4, 2019, 10-11am EST

Free webinars - advance registration needed

Whether you're an experience privacy officer or new in the field, pick Kate’s brain for free for an hour, in this live webinar. No charge, but you’ll need to register in advance.

Kate Dewhirst Health Law

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