I’m Kate Dewhirst.

I’m a lawyer who writes about legal issues affecting healthcare in Canada

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Patients do not understand their privacy rights – it’s our job to explain them

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It’s not enough for health care organizations to respect patient privacy rights.  I believe we have an obligation to help our patients understand those rights and activate them.

There is a definite power imbalance between health care providers and patients when it comes to their understanding of privacy.

Patients (and their caregivers) don’t receive a public education on their privacy rights. They don’t know what they are allowed to have (access to their records) or allowed to do (have their information shared with their health care providers or restrict access to their information) and what they should expect (a safe environment for their information).

We need to proactively tell them.

This might be done in formal ways, such as through your organization’s privacy policy statement. But how many people actually come to read that?

You can also use informal ways such as:

  • Orientation materials
  • Brochures in the office
  • Posters on walls
  • Videos on screens in waiting rooms
  • Conversations with patients by clinical staff
  • Peer support
  • Website Q&A
  • Social media posts

We also need to help them activate their privacy rights when asked to do so. Be patient and gentle.  Patients almost never say the exact right thing or use the right process to exercise their rights.  We have to help them with the language, find the forms or tell the right people.


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Some of Kate’s recent and upcoming events

Health Privacy Officer training
September 22, 2020

For Privacy Officers within healthcare organizations - now totally online.

This course focuses on how to become a more confident privacy officer and gives you the tools to document your privacy program. Full details and registration here...

Primary care webinars: Employment Law Update & Legal Issues for EDs and Board members

Part of Kate’s monthly webinar series.

Our September program is on privacy litigation and the October program will address harassment issues and scenarios.
Full details of the 2020 webinar series and registration here.

Free healthcare privacy webinar - ask me anything!
the first Wednesday of every month (Off for the Summer - next up: September 2 and October 7)

Free webinars - advance registration needed

Whether you're an experienced 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.

Free Part X CYFSA privacy webinar - ask me anything!
the second Wednesday of every month (next up: July 8 and August 12)

Free webinars - advance registration needed

Whether you're an experienced 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.

Team Privacy Training Events
July 8, 23, 28 August 4, October 7, 8

For Primary Care clinics, Hospitals, Community Agencies and Children’s Aid

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

Kate Dewhirst Health Law

Kate says:

My mission is bringing the law to life. I make legal theory understandable, accessible and fun! I’m available and love to work for all organizations in the healthcare sector across Ontario and beyond.

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